Well, the Utah ice climbing season is unfortunately over. It was a very short season, and also my first “full” one anywhere. My first climb was January 4 in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the last was a sketchfest last Sunday in North Creek Canyon. That’s about seven weeks worth of climbing, with an off week in there due to a January thaw. So really, six weeks worth of solid ice. Not much time for a weekend warrior like myself.
Oh well, I got after it pretty well during this time period:
- January 4: climbed the Great White Icicle, a classic WI3 halfway up Little Cottonwood Canyon, with Curt, who led the whole thing. A nice, easy introduction to the season. I would end up repeating the climb twice more by the end of the month.
- January 9: Drove down to Ouray, CO to attend the Ouray Ice Festival. I had a blast last year and, having company this time, it promised to be even better. Curt and I did a handful of routes Saturday, watched Josh Wharton kill it at the comp, then headed to one of the hot springs. Later we checked out the annual Ouray FD dinner, got some schwag, downed a few beers, saw Max Turgeon’s slideshow, then headed to the after-party. At one point Curt turned around to hand me a beer right when some dude was walking by, spilling it a little bit. We turned to look who it was:
“Dude — Conrad Anker spilled my beer!”
It was pretty funny. No hard feelings, Conrad, haha.
The rest of the party and weekend was a blast. The next day, Josh taught my clinic, giving me some much-needed advice on my horrific ice technique. Amazing how far a little technique goes towards increasing your endurance…
- January 17: Headed down to Santaquin Canyon, just South of Provo, to check out the ice. Feeling confident from Ouray, I led the last pitch of Squash Head, my first lead ever! It wasn’t too scary, so Glenn and I did another route on the other side of the canyon.
- February 13: Drove up to Cody, WY for the Cody Ice Festival. The first day was pretty uneventful climbing-wise, but we checked out the Silent Auction/dinner/slideshow that evening, which was pretty fun. Dawn Glanc put on a pretty good show (and a ton of pull-ups!) and we retired early after a few beers. The next day we rose early to take a stab at High on Boulder, arguably the most classic climb in the area, and right at our level difficulty-wise. Curt took the first lead on the WI3 bulge, and I volunteered to lead the crux pitch, a WI4(+?) near-vertical 100ft curtain. Having never led anything harder than a WI3 before, this was probably a poor choice. But I felt confident, racked some screws, and got after it.
Right around the 4th screw it steepened from 80° to vertical, and I started to get pretty pumped making a diagonal traverse to what seemed like easier ice. Putting the 5th screw in was a challenge for my jello-arms, but it was bomber and went in with a struggle. I yelled “take!”, hung on the screw (another first), and rested for a while, 2/3rds of the way up the curtain. Soon afterwards I started up again, and, having lost my nerve, ended up putting in a belay by that 5th screw so Curtis could lead to the top. He TRed/led the pitch in one continuous motion — I was impressed. It was a good learning experience on the best ice I’ve ever climbed, hands down.
- February 22: Curt and I drove 1.5 hours south of SLC to North Creek Canyon, where we had heard of a fantastic, multi-pitch WI4. Unfortunately, the weather was warm and the ice was sketchy so we made the choice to bail after the first two pitches. It looks like a stellar route though, so I’ll surely be back next season…
Not a bad amount of climbing for a short period of time: I had been hoping to get ten days in, but only got seven. The weather has been horrifically warm all over the west (67° today!?) so I don’t think Ouray’s ice park will even survive much longer. I’m afraid my favorite sport is on the front line of the impending climate war…