Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Tooth Attempt 1 or When Levi Gets Ambitious...

 I noticed a small break in the grey weather up here in the great PNW. I had been wanting to try my hand at some winter climbing here and had some great recommendations from my friend A. Turner. The one that caught my eye was the south face of The Tooth, in the summer a Grade II, 4 pitch, 5.4. Sounds easy, right?

So I made some emails and phone calls and lined up a couple friends to join me.

This is the Tooth, mostly free of snow. The route follows the left skyline.

We spent some time approaching, but not much. One of the draws to this area is its accessibility. We parked in the upper lot of Alpental Ski Resort and I skinned while my partners snowshoed into the base of the route. The snow conditions down low were less than stellar, but improved the higher we got.

Looking down into our approach from the base of  the snow couloir below Pineapple Pass

Looking up the couloir towards the base.  Fun!

Our view of the Tooth from directly below. The route is the left skyline.

Ben and Tim. Suckers for punishment.

Leading in my ski boots

Entrance couloir

That's Rainier!

Looking up the first pitch

This is my happy face.

I wanted to climb something like this to get a feel for the winter climbing up here. It's one of the main reasons I moved to this part of the country. I'll mention a few things I learned. 

Parts of the day were awesome, some were fun, some just sucked.

I was not diligent in arranging my layers to match the changing temps and activity levels. Rookie. I sweated up a storm on the ski in, it involved a fair bit of elevation gain in a rather trashy skin track. I worked hard. I naturally soaked all my base layers, which means when I stopped to transition from skiing to climbing I was freezing cold very quickly. I had warm layers, but once that chill sets in it's hard to get back to baseline. I didn't really warm up until I was in the shower hours later.

I know my bindings suck and I'v been meaning to upgrade, but they were particularly terrible that day. When I'd switch to skinning from skiing my brakes stopped latching in the up position so that every time I moved a ski forward the brake was dragging. I was ready to scream after a very short time of this. My heel risers tended to pop too far forward and be useless. When I'm skinning and my skis bow at all the heel pins will actually catch the rear of my boot and trip me. From behind. One other tech issue was my skins needed waxed. Badly.

I like to use my ski poles for balance.That makes sense. I brought my Black Diamond poles that have mostly chewed off baskets because of my favorite dog Utah.

Don't let his good looks fool you, he will chew your ski poles!

The end result being that when I'd plant a pole to maintain a stance the whole damn pole would sink up to my wrist and I'd go sideways into the snow loudly cursing my poor little life. Note to self: spend $5 on new baskets.

I also brilliantly decided to climb in my ski boots. Now, hear me out. My ski boots are great, for skiing. I've never tried to climb in them before. I had leather boots in my truck for climbing. But I hate carrying a pair of boots in my pack when I've got a pair on my feet. I'll sum it up by saying that I have never been more terrified climbing 5.4 in my entire life. I should have just put crampons on those suckers, but I more brilliantly left those in my pack at the base of the route. Brilliant. 

On the plus side, I don't know if I've ever been more proud of leading a pitch of rock, ever. Yeah, I know, 5.4. Those ski boots forced some very creative climbing. It involved some tricky route finding to avoid ice, digging in snow to find handholds, taking off gloves, putting on gloves, freezing my fingers and then enjoying the ensuing screaming barfies. Placing a large plastic boot an a wet, icy foothold I  would never even blink at in any other circumstance and then just FREAKING OUT while committing to it. Super fun in a really messed up, ridiculous way.

Long story short we knew the weather called for rain in the afternoon, the clouds moved in, the wind started to blow and we bailed from the top of the 3rd pitch. It started snowing as we got back to the truck.

My synopsis was that the route itself is a blast. Super fun climbing in a nice, beautiful location. The snow and ice on the route made it a bit spicier, but fully manageable. It's easy to access and fairly fast to get in and out. I've made notes of all my errors and hopefully will learn from those mistakes. It was fantastic to get out and experience a new place. I even got some turns in on the way back to the truck.

 Now... what's the next route on that damn list? Oh yes, Chair Peak; see you soon...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Very Important Safety Videos!

I saw these videos during my RIC. It really changed the way I look at quickdraws for sport climbing and the application of dyneema vs. nylon. There's a lot more info at the DMM website and I'll include some links at the bottom.

This one really make me look at what I'm anchoring in with and how:

Knowledge is the key to safety! Pass it on to your friends!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIC Part Deux, The End.

Well, I'm back in Seattle after the completion of the Rock Instructor course. It was a phenomenal class. The weather got cold and rainy/snowy the last couple days, so we ditched the bivy spot and descended on Solveig's house. Many thanks for the place to sleep, you may have saved my life! You at least saved yourself  from hearing me whine...

We did some short roping practice on a sunny, windy day near asterick pass. The next day it snowed so we escaped to the Bend Rock Gym for some heated rescue practice and technique. I love this techy stuff and thoroughly enjoyed the day. That pretty much wrapped up the course, and here's some pics to round it out:

Practicing rescue skills indoors while it snows outside

Top Rope Belay

Transfers into a lower. Sick!

The above rope systems are super effecient and streamlined, however it can be quite tricky to wrap your head around everything that's going on at the anchor and at your harness. Practice is imperative!

That's a nice clean anchor

Short Rope Primer

It was the day before it snowed. Hence the puffy's.

Many thanks for Dale and Tom for a great class! Many thanks to Paul and RMI for subsidizing the course and encouraging every one to sign up! And many thanks to my co workers at RMI for making the whole course so damn fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

AMGA Rock Instructor Course, Smith Rocks, Oregon

I've spent the last six days at Smith Rock State Park near Bend Oregon participating in an AMGA Rock Instructor Course. This is course is the first in a succession of courses with the goal of full international certification. It's a very cool, long, expensive process that is quite difficult. Somehow we've been blessed with fantastic weather, despite some ominous forecasts. We've been spending our time with two instructors; Dale Remsburg, Technical Director of the AMGA and Tom Hargis, one of the owners of Exum Mountain Guides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. These guys are phenomenal!

Looking up at Zebra Zion, what an awesome route!

Tom climbing up to Katie's belay

The zoo that is Smith Rock on a sunny weekend day

This place lends itself to pictures

On Belay?

The man, the legend, Tom Hargis

Post climb chillin'

What a pretty helmet

I may need a shower

Today was a classroom day, lots of presentations on various aspects of guiding. It was perfect, cuz the weather was sub-par. Tomorrow we head back out for short rope instruction, then a day of rescue training. That'll about wrap up the course. Hopefully I'll get into the next course next year!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Lil' Bit of Running, and a Sicky Ski Vid

Haven't been doing much lately. I've been running, climbing at the Seattle Bouldering Project, and doing some weight training in their weight room. I'm planning some adventures. I figure if I plan enough of them, one of them is bound to happen.

If anyone heads to Seattle soon, I highly recommend the Seattle Bouldering Project. It is one of the most laid back gyms I've ever been to. It's large and well designed, and whoever picks their playlist is a genius!

Ok, ok, here's the video:

And this one:

I'm heading up to Mt.Rainier this weekend and maybe some skiing will go down. Fingers crossed!