Monday, October 4, 2010

North Peak Ice

So, my first go at the North Couliour of North Peak ended up in a henious scramble up this scree field and boy did I catch hell from my partners at the time whom of which had went on their own little adventures on separate routes that same morning. To my credit, the approach is confusing if you had never done it before and I took an obvious trail that landed me smack dab in the middle of scree hell.

But maybe it was a blessing in disguise, as I think back to the glory days more than a year ago when 5.9's were supposedly easy and gym climbing was much harder than our toprope-hero shenanigans up at Donner.

That, and the fact that the couloir was in a steep snow slog condition back then, according to an old roommate of mine.

Regardless, when I suggested the idea to my buddy Travis last week, he was excited to get out of town and that Friday, the two of us loaded up and trucked it on down to Yosemite for a weekend of rock and ice.

Things were off to a bad start when we rolled into Tuloumne Meadows only to find it socked in with these ominous dark clouds- clouds that seemed bent on zapping the life out of over-motivated climbers trying their luck atop the awesome granite domes and spires of the Meadows.

With this being the case, Trav and I decided against climbing the classic West Crack of Daff Dome and instead opted for the less committing Northwest Books route on Lembert Dome.
This turned out to be a wise choice as the rolling storm at last found us during the slabby descent of the granite monolith. With Rain and lightning threatening to shut the whole trip down, Travis and I searched the beautiful stretch of HWY 120 for somewhere dry to toprope. Eventually, we found a henious offwidth that my old roomie had referred me to called Gailyns Crack.

After successfully climbing the beast, Trav and I retreated to the Saddlebag Trailhead parking lot to ready ourselves for the North Couloir of North Peak the next day.

Being the ultralight guy that I fancy myself as, all I had brought to sleep in was my bivy sack, sleeping bag and tarp. This proved to be a bummer as we were pounded by a cold October rain at the trailhead. I managed to stay dry however and despite the feeling of being shot by a million airsoft guns while being wrapped in cellophane, I slept rather well.

The next morning, early as hell, Travis and I found ourselves making good time up the trail to the North Face of North Peak and, despite some initial route finding trouble (again), we were soon at the base of a fabulous ice climb, ready for battle.

The ice was in great condition, making it easy to fire in ice screws and avoid dinner plating (pulling out huge dish-shaped chunks of ice) while making swift vertical progress. Because this was my first multipitch ice climb, it was a bit harrowing trusting my full weight to belay anchors made of ice screws. However, because it was so darned uncomfortable standing on relatively low angle ice, I soon was able to relax and trust the screws to do their job.

After 4 pitches of great climbing, Travis and I finally topped out of the couloir- only to find that same persnickety storm system had again found us atop a mountain. Keeping a careful eye on the slowly approaching system, Trav and I enjoyed a well deserved snack while coiling the ropes when BAM! Lightning had struck so close, I jumped and nearly, nearly dropped my ciabatta sandwich! Without words, Travis and I swiftly packed all of our gear and raced down the side of the mountain, hail and rain motivating us to run faster and faster across the landscape that suddenly seemed so familiar to me (it was the same scree slope I had discovered a year ago).

In no time, we were off the mountain and in the relative safety of the lake system that was supported by the Conness Glacier. With such pristine alpine lakes about us, it was hard to snap a bad picture.

Soon enough, we were back at the car. Though drenched, we were excited to have knocked off a classic Sierra alpine ice climb, although the weather in Yosemite was only getting worse and worse it seemed.

A quick dive down to the Mobile Mart (and thus internet access) revealed that the weather both in Tuolumne and the Valley was indeed socked in with rain and electricity. Boo! Three short hours later, we were rolling back into Reno, bummed that we couldn't stay longer in the famed land of granite.

Despite the weather letdown, I was in good spirits as I had plans to meet my lovely girlfriend at the Wal (a local bar near the university) to watch the UNR vs UNLV football game. After unloading all of my wet gear, I was off to spend the rest of my fabulous weekend with Ashley. Truly the best of both worlds.

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