Monday, March 30, 2009

Northwest Face of Half Dome

Going to Lander, Wyoming twice has really made me start thinking about rock climbing.

Big wall climbing is one thing you sure are going to remember. Last fall Neil and I climbed the NW Face of Half Dome wall style. It reminds you that going fast and light is right, as hauling takes more time than climbing. And we went to Yosemite to go climbing.

We arrived in Yosemite later than planned, due to tire issues. It was looking like rain. We had planned to climb Serenity Crack as soon as we got there. At the base of the route a party of four was looking ready to climb. Every belay, as far as the eye could see, had people at them. Welcome to Yosemite in fall.

Serenity Crack the day we actually got to climb it. We went in the afternoon and had most of the route to ourselves.

Somehow we found ourselves the next day hiking up to the base of Half Dome planning to climb the first three pitches, sleep at the base, climb to the top of pitch 17 the next day, bivy, and top out the day after.

At the base of the route we got to meet the resident bear.

The first few pitches went pretty quick. I wasn't able to get the first pitch free (5.10c), but we were fixed to the top of pitch three, and back down at sunset. Just in time to watch somebody in a wing suit base jump from the summit. Dusk is their favorite time to jump so the rangers can't catch them.

The Real Deal Neil

Looking West towards El Cap and North Dome

The start of pitch 6, 5.9

Pitch 9

The Robbin's Traverse pitch 10

Pitch 12, great face and crack climbing

The crux 5.9 section of pitch 12. You are standing on the tip of a thin flake and have to step left to the crack. Very exposed.

We had to bivy at the top of pitch 12, after we fixed to the top of pitch 14. We had wanted to make the top of pitch 17, but the chimney pitches in the dark seems worse than the narrow bivy. We rapped with leaving the haul bag and most of our gear at out high point. Only with our sleeping bags, puffy coats, and food we managed a night of light drizzle.

We woke at 5:30am to cloudy skies we had lost the starry sky much earlier in the night. When it got light it kinda looked better to the west, but Tuolumne was getting rain. At that point on a wall that big, up is better than down.

It cleared up to be a fine day. Looking down pitch 16, 5.9.

The Double Crack, pitch 17. A straight in 5.9 hand crack, one of my favorite.

Neil getting to the far side of the Thank God Ledge.

Top out at sunset. A little late, as we planned to do the 8 mile decent trail that day. We ended up hiking well into the dark and just slept out in the woods a few miles from Curry Village.

Mount Watkins. Had an failed attempt on this face later in my trip.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

From Shadow Peak to the Dike Snowfield

Skied on Teton Pass today with Cat, Neil, and Neil's friend from Denver Ryan. One of the best days of powder skiing this season. We took two laps on the NE ridge. Thirteen inches on this mornings avy report, but more had fallen since then.

Here is a report from skiing on March 12th.

With a bit of high pressure setting in Christian and I thought it would be a good time to check out the Sliver of Nez Perce. Matt B., Paul, and I skiied the Sliver last year in close to perfect conditions and I was hoping from pretty much the same. Christian and I planned on skinning up Shadow Peak and skiing the NW couloir on our way to the Sliver. Last year we went up Garnet Canyon and the Platform couloir to access the Shadow Peak Cirque. I think I liked skiing over Shadow better than the Garnet way.

An early start gave us a great sunrise on the way up.

From the top of Shadow Peak the NW couloir drops in to the Shadow Peak Cirque. At that point you get a great view of the Sliver.

The Sliver looked like it had taken a toll from the sun the day before, more that we had planned. Someone had already skied the lower half and it looked like conditions were grim. Since we didn't like the idea of survival skiing in the 1,000 foot, 50 degree couloir we began to think of other options.

Our other idea for the day was the Dike Snowfield in between the Grand Teton and Disappointment peak. Since it was still early and we were making good time we decided to ski into Shadow Peak Cirque, down the Platform couloir, and into Garnet Canyon heading for the Dike Snowfield.

The ski in the NW couloir was bit firm, but skiable.

Shadow Peak Cirque with the NW couloir in the background

The Platform Couloir was some of the best snow of the day.

We made it up the north fork of Garnet Canyon and Spalding Falls just as the sun was really beating down and starting to warm the snow surface. Another hour or so and I wouldn't want to be on that slope. We were beginning to see the first of the small pinwheels coming from near the base of the Middle Teton.

We headed for the Tepee Glacier and did a bit of bootpacking where the snow was really firm and wind scoured.

A low helicopter was flying around the Grand, and passed over us a few times. We think they might have been out looking for Bighorn Sheep.

The top of the Dike Snowfield was sastrugi, but soon became a bit better. Overall the skiing was pretty variable.

The ski out was pretty good powder in the sheltered mid-elevations of Glacier Gulch. The lower elevations were getting pretty sun baked, so we decided to pass on the Burnt Wagon Gulch exit and did a long traverse back to Bradley Lake saving some time.

Although we didn't ski the Sliver, we had a great day, covering plenty of ground and skiing about 7,000 feet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Turkey Chute and the South Fork of Avalanche Canyon

Christian and his friend Aaron who's on the Targhee patrol came over from Driggs to do a little skiing in the Park this past Tuesday. We had originally planned on skiing up the south fork of Avalanche Canyon into No Woods Basin and out Death Canyon, but the weather was a bit too cloudy. So, we decided to ski the Turkey Chute off 25 Short and head up the south fork to have a look around.

We made good time up 25 Short with a skin track covered with a bit of new snow, and traversed the ridge to the top of the chute. The entrance to Turkey Chute is always a little rocky, and today with the new snow it was a bit more challenging. I first started to downclimb with my skis on my back, but felt really sketchy in the loose dirt and snow. Christian started to put his skis back on and go for the sidestep down, which didn't look too bad. I followed in Christian's path, while Aaron chose to downclimb a bit different path than what I tried, and he seemed to not have any problems.

Once we were in the snow looked pretty good. The high pressure from earlier in the week left us with a melt freeze crust under the 3-4 inches of light density new snow. I did a ski cut at the top and only got minor sluffing, so I continued down to a safe zone at the dogleg. Nice dust on crust skiing.

Aaron making the best of 4 inches!

Christian enjoying the Turkey Chute

From the bottom of the Turkey Chute we headed up the south fork of Avalanche Canyon. Avalanche Canyon is one of my favorite places in the park, especially the north fork in summer. The south fork is pretty mellow for skiing, however, there are many great looking lines that drop into the south fork from Buck, Wister and Point 10,960. The Northeast couloir on Buck looks like a great way to finish skiing from the summit if you've already skied the regular route. Also the Southeast couloir on Wister looks like a fun corn ski.

Skinning up the south fork

The NE couloir on Buck

We made our way up the relatively flat south fork, almost to the divide between Veiled Peak and Mount Wister. The cloudy weather made us feel not so motivated, so we made our way back. The skiing was pretty variable, but nonetheless enjoyable. It was about 3 PM by then and we saw some folks heading up canyon on our way back. They had not skied anything yet, and wanted to see how far they could get before dark. Not really sure what they were thinking, but who's to say what's crazy.

West Face of 25 Short and Snowdevil Ridge