Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Great Weather for Ducks

Not much to report, unless you're interested in my rantings of pent-up emotion as a result of staring at the same four walls, watching incessant rain course over window panes and the spring climbing opportunities wash away...  wwmftd?

Despite this being the rainiest season I can remember, I did manage a high-quality outing with good friend and partner Drew Ruderman - damning the rain and Positive Mental Attitude intact, we made a honest effort to bag one of the ephemeral mixed lines on the south face of Beehive Peak, near Big Sky.  The routes can be amazing, but given their elevation and aspect, require pretty specific weather conditions.

This season, the melt/freeze cycle needed to form ice on the typically sunny face became more and more of a melt/melt cycle, so we opted for Plan B and enjoyed record snow on the east ridge of the peak.  Classic and moderate terrain was tempered with copious snow and firm, frozen conditions on the north aspect eased the challenge of 5th class mixed climbing in ski boots, while to the contrary, the boards strapped to my back behaved like the sails of a great ship in strong, shifting, erratic winds, tossing me off balance when least expected.

After simul-climbing from the east col, adrenaline began to pump hard and fast as I clicked into my skis on the summit and felt the enormous exposure circling, spinning 360 degrees of extreme consequence and threatening to pull me into an apprehension-fueled vertigo.  Not having been on skis since July of 2010, these would be my first turns of the year.  I opted for a belay. 

Once in motion, I felt at home and suddenly the summit descent seemed a little anticlimactic.  Off belay and a body length of down-climbing put me at the top of a 300cm-wide gully that ran out to a pocket of snow perched over yet more exposure - a quick hipcheck on my last turn in the pocket, only a few feet from the edge of the world, reminded me that this was indeed still very real terrain. A billy goat traverse linked to the top of a much larger gully and beautiful turns above one last pinch.  A short hike up and over the west col brought us to the top of the Fourth of July Couloir and a cruiser descent on down to the tall boys we'd stashed in the snowbank back at the trailhead.

Now let the sun shine...

Drew Ruderman amplifying his power and will high on the east ridge - PMA Bob, PMA...

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