Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Revelations Alaska Range.

Flying into Anchorage for the first time as a Alpine climber is intense.

Myself, Ian Welsted and Kris Irwin Received the  John Lauchlan Memorial Award this year to go climbing in the Revelation Range Of Southwest Alaska Range.

We land at 1Am on April 2/14. Book into the Captain hook hotel(unexpectedly) for a night of restless sleeping and were off in the early morning for a few items at AMH and Breakfast At Middle way Cafe on W Northern lights (tasty breakfast burrito)! Were off back to meet Our shuttle to Talkeetna. Gary From "Go Purple Shuttle" picks us up on time and we cram our duffel and ski's into the van and were off, Heading north to Wassilla to stop at Carrs and do our groceries for our 3 week stay in the Range.

Gary waits patiently as we frantically run through isle many times filling carts and emptying the shelf's. 1.5 hours later we think we have got it handled. The check out takes just as long to get through.  one last stop at the Adult Beverage shop and were in, locked, strapped and driving to Talkeetna air taxi. Screaming into the parking lot at 5pm we are hopeful to get a flight into the Revelation glacier still that same night.  We weight in sign in gain some more fuel for the stoves and Paul fly's us in one smooth swoop.

Recap: Arrive in anchorage at 1am on the 3rd setting up camp on the glacier at 8pm on the 3rd..... Wow that happened with out a hitch.

We fly in and the french team that just spent a solid 2 weeks in there is surprised to see us a day early. They had great success on some routes in there to with some excellent weather.  They pack up quickly and jump into the plane and fly out with Paul.

9am. Were alone blue ski's big granite peaks with multiple routes primed for the picking and we are wide eyed. Kris Irwin, Owner and active guide of "Rockies Ice Specialists" Spots the line and we pack out bags. Melt some water and have a bite to eat. hit the bags by 11pm and set the alarms for 5am.

Beep.. Beep.. Beep we wake up rather fast, stoke is high and the white gas is roaring to life, 6 liters and oatmeal has us literally running out of camp and up a snow field for the first taste of Revelation Granite.

Kris racks off and is gone before we know what hits us.  4 Pitches of fun moderate ice and Névé climbing. Kris's block is done for a while, meaning its all mine. I tie in grab the rack and im outa there, Climbing and laughing at how good it is, moderate fun with 3 good dudes. Excellent.

Pull some great pure rock moves and establish a belay at the base of a ice pillar!  Spectacular.
 Darren Climbing a fun ice pillar

Off i go, its aerated and steep, but has good ice where i needed it to and rock to smear against. I tap my way up this and onto the upper  Névé climbing. 4 pitches has Ian Welstead taking the ropes and gear and pulls us through the upper head wall in a fast single 200M pitch all in simil climbing mode, Were on a ridge! Gosh that was quick. Couple hundred meters looks to be the summit, we put a rope away and tie in on one rope, Moving together is faster. We crest the skyline....

This is simply the top of the buttress, the summit looms well in the distance after a long ridge separating us from the true summit.
 Ian Welsted Walking the ridge on Mt, Angel

We brew up and talk Strategy. Kris is the determined one in this decision, Off we go, He takes the lead and were off, weaving and bobbing to the summit of Mt Angle, Via a new route: John Lauchlan Memorial Award Route (1,200m, AI4+, M5).

We descend well into the night and back to camp in the early hours.  The revelations have really welcomed us immediately! 

We rest for a few days and ski around looking at our options, Needless to say there are endless.

We turn our attention to a bunch of peaks known as the "four horsemen" we attempt a great looking line on the 3rd horseman. A beauty snow couioulr  to thin ice strips poring down a near vertical wall brings us to Pitch 1. Ian makes short work of it and were all climbing and just all smiles. Beautiful. Kris unlocks the 2nd tricky pitch with thin ice and smaller feet bringing us to a nice small snowfield. My turn, a left facing chimney at about 70-75 degrees. Looks reasonable. I take off get some good pro off the belay and embark on a pitch I wont soon forget. Snow is faceted and pro is imaginary. climbing is thin and the mental experience at an all time high! Pulling to the top of that pitch left me feeling depleted...  Ian and Kris lead and get 2 more pitches before a snow filled squeeze chimney stops us dead in our tracks.... 

 Kris Irwin in the meat of this squeeze chimney.

That's it for this day. We rappel unwilling to re-lead a few of the pitches this trip, the route remains undone and primed for a party wanting a aesthetic route!
 Our attempted route on the 3rd Horseman.

Ian spots a cool looking line, ice that weaves back and forth like a "S" On unclimbed Dike peak.
Early morning has us skiing downhill at 5am! Now that's how to wake up. Stash the ski's and hike up in threatening clouds and slight winds has us thinking twice, Sure enough the upper head wall releases small spindrift avalanches and we retreat hastily. Its not the day.  However we look across the valley to another aspect and a line we spied the other day. Hey! Ian yells, lets salvage the day, it is only 6am after all, We ski across the valley and a few route finding fudges has us at an unlikely looking pitch.
Ian has a well trained eye and he finds ice and gear and were off, 7 pitches up a fun buttress on Mt Churub, I'm laughing my way up a ice vein when I get Rocked by a large spindrift in the middle of putting in a ice screw, I hang on with one tool and proceed to blindly refined the screw which is half way in and twist it all the way in, still getting pummeled I grab a draw and somehow find the hole to clip it into, it stops and i clip the rope just in time for round 2! This is bigger and feels like it might tear me off, lasts longer and i am actually having trouble getting breath. Yikes!! It stops and I climb ice faster then i ever have to a big overhang where i build an anchor and take some well deserved breaths.. Its time to go, The slope that produced these small sloughs were relativity small and benign in angle. A eye opener. Were happy to rappel, to have gotten some climbing in, but not worth continuing with winds and clouds moving in through out the day. we get some more small slides through out the decent and were down safe.  A skin back to camp has the day complete.

Few days rest and were well into our second week now, We think we should go give the route we came to do a try. Mt Pyramid central gash 1500m W-SW Face.

We pack for a night up there and were off, A downhill ski again and a skin up a glacial bench has us stashing out ski's again and book packing up the left side of a big snow cone, Pitch after pitch of steep snow and ice bring us to a bunch of back to back mixed pitches. It starts to snow extremely lightly and the face starts running with spindrift, we bail. fast... seems the route needs some time to adjust.

A few days of stable calm weather has Dike peak looking prime again. We go up and the route goes with moderate difficulty and blue sky's. Pitch after pitch of ice that in the Rockies would never be climbable. A big snow gully and a Dyke pitch which climbs surprisingly well and protects even better. A chock stone and snow fields bring us to the top. Unclimbed Dike peak. Were happy, but there is a storm brewing so were off as fast as we got there, 3 long raps in to a gully has us walking/running down this gully in pure pleasure. Easiest decent iv had in a long time!
 Kris Irwin & Ian Welsted Following a fun Dyke pitch

A cold Snap and heavy winds kept us tent bound for a few days...

We wake to sunny sky's and calm conditions. Perfect day for a "casual" outing. Mt Hydra, at the south west corner of the revelation circ. We leave camp at 10am! ski up valley for a hour and climb a big snow coulior, 6 interesting pitches has us meeting the ridge early evening and summiting just a hour later. Another casual Walk down big snow slopes has us back at the ski's and racing back to camp with a tail wind!  The Casual Route (600 meters, AI4 M6).
 "Casual Route"
Hydra Peak

Time is coming to an end in less then a week now. Time for another shot on Pyramid Peak route.
weather has been stable, no new snow little to no wind, seems like it the stars aligning.
Were off early re-climbing the same blocks as we did originally for speed, although a good idea, the route sports all new snow from slides and ice deterioration from the evening sun we have been having. Some pitches take just as long if not longer.... We get to out high point and we push a few pitches higher. we get to a lateral snowfield which we could see from base camp and decided that would be camp. Kris starts to establish a tent platform and I lead another pitch and fix the ropes for the morning. we settle in for a night up high and have dinner and water. Morning dose not come fast enough and I'm jugging the ropes to get to the belay, bring up the boys, and I'm off on my last pitch of the block. Over hanging snow and bad ice has be fighting for upward progress, at least there is good gear as I commit to a hook pull, lock off find the next hook and that has me flying backwards.. hanging on the ropes I lower back to the belay and Ian gives the pitch a try, No luck a lot of cleaning and struggling smooth granite walls dose not produce any aid climbing options, we bail. Tough decision.
 The Line on Pyramid Peak Takes the obvious gash just left of Center.

After Rappelling for some hours we reach out ski's, nice to be back in the sun. We hear a rumble, look back and a cornice breaks off and starts a full height avalanche. Runs the full length of the Gully we were just in and slides down the Snow cone at the bottom of the route....... Wow, we were all in shock.
We called Paul and he flew in 2 days later to pick us up. Weather was getting to hot and with the Revelations low elevation it was truly falling apart. Spring is here.

As it is we competed three new routes, made the first ascent of Dyke Peak, climbed about 65 technical pitches in three weeks, and visited a range which is sure to draw more interest from climbers and skiers in the future.

Thanks to our Award and sponsors for making this a truly Amazing trip.

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mt. Athabasca  3491m 11454ft. 

 May 10/2013

 North Ridge 5.5

Jesse Peterson and I headed to Athabasca to climb the North ridge of Mt. Athabasca. 
A later then normal start had us leaving canmore at 5am. This time of year the sun is up early and stays up till late into the evening. Driving the whole way to the ice fields center in daylight was not something any climber is used to. Arriving at the "climber lot" a little after 7am with multiple cars and trucks there already had us thinking we were quite late! 2 hours of glacier travel and a small slope brought us to the col of Mt. Athabasca and Boundary peak. Here starts the fun, Rock ridge climbing snow slope slogging (it was a tad early in the season). Brought us to what i would call the crux pitch. A 30m Corner with a squeeze chimney at the top. just a lot of fun climbing on a great alpine ridge. Getting to the top of course is great. An 11,000ft peak. Sun, calm and a good partner for the days objective. seeing as it was a later then expected start we choose to head down the "AA" col. ( Athabasca andromeda ) We decided to rappel the first section of the col slope to see how the snow was reacting to the strong spring sun. It was excellent and provided a long, steep but safe bum slide all the way to the glacier below.
Mt Athabasca. The North Ridge takes the left hand skyline to the top.
Jesse climbing some typical rock sections along the ridge.

Some snow slopes below the summit.
Besides the color coordination, This is what happens when your sunglasses are WAY to light and in a glacier/snow style route all day. His eyes were pretty fried by the top.

Yamnuska, The Wall Of Stone, 

After a long cold and wet spring the sun came out and we were granted with many sunny days in a usually clouded May.

Yamnuska was looking good to go and the snow was melting, The 300m face was drying rapidly

May 5/2013

First up was a Great day with long time friend Steve Johnston on the ultra classic Kahl wall (280m 5.10a of excellent quailty limestone climbing). After meeting in the parking lot for an early 0630 start, we were soon cruising up the steep hills that guard the proud face, After a quick bite and water break we were off, climbing the lower sections quickly as the grade is quite low compared to the upper half.  arriving at the first 10a crux pitch, And what a pitch it is! Heavily fixed with bolts and pins. However alot of the gear is dating back so many decades ago that alot of it should just not be trusted anymore, forcing clean protection to be placed. Steve did an excellent job following this pitch. Another 10a pitch and a few 5.8's and 5.9's later we are sitting ontop of a snowy Yamnuska, Basking in the ever strengthening sun. A beautiful Spring day.
Steve Following the amazing 2nd 5.10a Pitch

May 8/2013

Another sunny morning and a strong sunny forecast had me heading upto Yamnuska again for a fun route on the westend of Yamnuska.

Unnamed  (the Pumpkin route)  217m 5.7

Audrey Hebert joined me in canmore in the morning for a climb. Sunny skies and a fairly early start had us at the base of the route just as the sun was warming things up.  The west end offers great options for climbing in the hard easy medium grades. Unnamed follows the obvious corner straight up. the big pay off is the orange and black pumpkin that was painted up there back in 1968. Getting to the pumpkin it is much bigger then expected! A cool sight indeed. Again the sun shining no wind and not a cloud in the sky. Spring is starting off with a bang this year.
Audrey Hebert and I on top of Pumpkin Route.

May 14/2013 Shuftee 325m 5.9

Jim Elzinga and I met almost 2 years ago, A Rockies legend who has established more first ascents and more boldly First Winter accents around the world. Was my partner for the day. We choose a long moderate line for the day. The morning was chillier then the last few times I had been up in the last week but still excellent spring conditions. Today I was to do all the leading, I could not of been more stoked on that! I love being out front all day. That first 5.8+ pitch is always in your face on Direttissma, good wake up to the days climbing that lays ahead. Stiple climbing/corner climbing/crack climbing a full 50m To the first belay. Soon there after we are at the intersection where direttissma goes right on a delicate traverse and we go straight up the guts of the corner above. after re racking and having a quick look at the topo, off i went, climbing loose blocks right on top of your belayer is a delicate procedure, testing every block every foot and hand hold thoroughly. Getting to the top of the corner a WILD traverse out left demands attention. clip 2 pins and head left, a good crack in the roof provides protection while small holds and even smaller feet are your way across the seemingly blank rock, With almost 180m exposure below your feet to the scree basin below, this pitch has your attention! Jim quickly follows and we finish up the route to the sunny summit where we embrace the sun we have been void of for the last 3 hours, May is proving to be outstanding!
Jim following the first 5.8+ pitch on Direttissma.

May 15/2013 Chock stone corner Direct Start. 5.10a 55m

Again Jim and I headed back up to yam for a later start and a shorter day. After leisurely  drinking cappuccino's and eating muffins from the summit cafe in Canmore we made a 0930 departure for the yam parking lot. After finally passing a group of about 30 senior women on a morning hike we were well on our way up. The sun was strong this morning and we were panting and sweating heavily by the time we reached the base of yam. Gearing up and leaving a bag at the base (as we were rappeling) we were off. That 5.10a Direct start is entertaining and good for the grade, good gear and lots of it! corner climbing with finger/hand jams, scumming and smearing  brings you to the upper corner, a pair of parallel finger cracks that stretch upwards to the slab above. Having run out of this size gear i was mentally focused on efficient solid climbing. finally pulling over the slab I build an anchor and bring Jim up, we do one more pitch a 5.6 corner to a great ledge belay where we had lunch and drank flavored water for a while before making our way back down 2 rappels.
Jim working his way through the 5.10a Direct start.