Monday, August 16, 2010

Three Routes in Three Days: Alpine Climbing in the Pios

Last week Wolf and I returned to the Pioneer Mountains to explore some of the alpine potential out Kane Creek. Despite 60% chance of showers and thundershowers we got an early start and set up camp at Kane Lake.

The first route on our agenda was recently climbed by friends Drew Daly and Matt Scrivner. We raced up the Irish Arete as clouds darkened the horizon and showers threatened to turn us around.

We found pretty good rock with nice exposure and climbing up to about 5.6-5.7
We picked a non-technical descent and when returning back into the Kane Creek drainage we discovered this wild tunnel! The first thing to cross my mind was to return in winter and ski through this amazing feature!
That evening the thundershowers set in dumped inches of hail and rain on the range while we sat under a tarp and cooked dinner. We had more rain through the night and when the alarm went off at 6am there was that familiar sound of pattering on the tent. We slept in another hour and had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and eating Aki's famous outmeal-buttermilk pancakes while we waited for the rock to dry out.
By 10am things were still a bit wet, so we decided to hike further up the drainage and get a look at the north face of Goat Peak. On our return to camp, the sun came out and we decided to give Kane Creek Spire a go.
Kane Creek Spire only appears to be a spire when viewed from Kane Lake. Behind the spire is a long ridgeline that connects to the main Pioneer divide. We climbed three pitches up the lookers left side of the spire to gain the ridge, then short roped and short pitched along the ridge to reach the second step. Here we encountered 5.8 climbing and three more pitches to gain the knife edge arete above. Several more pitches got us through the technical terrain and then we transitioned for the descent.

Wolf walking the line on the upper arete!

Up and over a gendarme on the lower ridge.

Finishing up the technical section of the upper arete with the lower section and Kane Lake visible in the distance.

The red is our line of ascent while the green is our descent. We moved carefully over loose, slippery, wet rock on the way down and returned late to pack up our camp and head for home after a great adventure in the alpine.
The next day I headed in to Wildhorse to climb Mustang Peak with friend and client Tom U. I hadn't done this route in 6 or 7 years, and was delighted in it's quality.
It was a big day for Mustang Peak, with three parties of two summiting via the Broken Arrow route. We met Pat and Nick from Boise who started their day early by riding their bikes in from the campground to the trailhead! Then, as Tom and I were topping out we spotted SMG guides Drew and Taylor starting up the lower flanks of the peak. Probably one of the busiest days on Mustang Peak ever!
Thanks for the beers Pat and Nick!
Here's to Wolf and Tom for giving me the chance to take them into the high alpine, and here's to Idaho for blessing us with such amazing country so close to home!
Thank you!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

High Anxiety 5.9, Black Buttress, Sawtooth Mountains

My good friend Toby is in town, and last week we squeezed in a climb of High Anxiety after a half day of guiding in the morning. This is the third time I've climbed this route and it was as good as I had remembered it. The first time was in 1993 when my friend Matt Leidecker and I paddled across Redfish in a canoe, climbed the route and returned home to Ketchum that day. We were 18 and going for it! This time, Toby and I got off the boat at 2pm and were able to return to the lake by 7:30. Not bad, but both of us were slowed by the fact that I had only brought a single set of cams and we kept running out of gear for anchors! Some creative anchor building on both our parts cost us some time...

High Anxiety climbs a left facing corner for 2-3 pitches before moving out onto the face and connecting cracks with fantastic exposure! We topped out with 3 rope stretching pitches plus 2 short 4th class pitches.

Toby cruising through the 5.9 crux of pitch 2.

Splitter Sawtooth granite.

Connecting the dots after the corner ends. This section of the climb has notorious route finding issues... which leads to routes like "Higher Anxiety" and "Highest Anxiety"... it's really not that big a deal with a little bit of beta.

Does 5.8 get any better???

Another Sawtooth obscure classic, the Black Buttress!
Thanks Toby for a great day in the mountains.