Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tunnel Vision, Round 3

Jack Roberts and I tried for Tunnel Vision one more time, leaving the car earlier this time, hoping to beat the sun to the ice. We had about four days of cold rain and snow last week, followed by some nice freeze-thaw, and I was so excited I could barely sleep until my 3 a.m. alarm, anticipating the ice we'd find. But after the two-hour ski we found....nada. Much less snow and ice on Tunnel Vision than there had been two and a half weeks ago. We skied up and down the drainage to check out other climbs. Vanquished: nope. That strand above Necrophelia: too short to justify the approach pitches. The south-facing gullies on Mt. Otis: too warm by the time we saw them.

So, as a fall-back, I proposed bagging the Sharkstooth, the 12,630-foot tower that lords over the south side of the Andrews Glacier drainage. It was a good call. After an exhausting snow slog up to the Gash, the col east of Sharkstooth, we climbed three long pitches to the best summit in Rocky Mountain National Park. (The Petit Grepon, Wowie, and other spires may be more vertiginous, but they're just pointy buttresses. Sharkstooth is a real mountain, and one that only climbers can reach.) I love climbs like this in the spring. The route we followed is trivial in summer (5.5 or so), but in spring conditions, with wet snow on the ledges and verglas on some of the holds, it provided some modest challenge, and with all that alpine ambience it was easy to overlook the loose rock. And the views were simply stunning. After rebuilding some crappy rappel anchors for the descent, we plunge-stepped and glissaded back to the skis, where we clicked in for a 2,000-vertical-foot slide back to the car. At the Loch, the ice was unsettlingly wet and open water lapped at either end, so we skirted the lake via a snowbank and the log jam at its north end, and soon, with only a wee bit of postholing at the end of the trail, we were back at the car after a gorgeous 12-hour day. As for Tunnel Vision: It will have to wait until next spring.

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