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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Don't Believe Everything You Read

Tip of that hat to Rob Dillon for this quote on the thankless job of writing a guidebook, snatched from a Mountain Project post: "I once met Don Reid, author of the Yosemite guide. The poor guy. Immediately upon letting on that he was in fact THAT Donny Reid, he issued what was obviously a much-practiced statement: 'Whatever happened, I'm sorry.'"

Dillon was commenting on a climb in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a place notorious for vague and confusing route descriptions. Sometimes, the route descriptions for the Black are confusing even if all the facts are correct. I once wrote a "Classic" story describing the ├╝ber-classic Scenic Cruise route for Rock & Ice, and I worked hard to make sure my description was as clear and accurate as possible. (I've climbed the route twice, and I looked at every topo and description I could find before crafting my own.) When the article was prepared for layout, then-publisher and editor-in-chief George Bracksieck wrote a photo caption suggesting a high traverse well above the Scenic Cruise's notorious Pegmatite Traverse. "But George," I argued, "I don't even know if it will go that way! I've never heard of anyone going that way." But he insisted, and that's the way it was printed. As it turns out, there is in fact a high traverse, but it's harder than the Pegmatite Traverse and at least as scary. Whatever happened, I'm sorry.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Andy's Reminder

Flagstaff climber Albert Newman writes: "My buddy Andy Morrow took a real nasty traversing fall out at the Overlook about six years ago, and unfortunately the rope was also behind his leg, causing him to flip into a 40-foot swan dive. Anyway, his titanium (skull) insert became infected in January and had to be taken out for 4 months. Nine days ago, they put his skull back together in Phoenix. He was home the next evening. When I took this photo, he said he wanted to remind all those climbers out there to wear a helmet."



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.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wildest Ice Climbs Ever

Where will ice climbers go if climate change destroys the world’s classic ice routes? Canadian Will Gadd and Swede Andreas Spak explored one possible answer in Sweden, where they rappelled 500 feet into abandoned iron mines to check out underground ice formations. You can read about it today in my story at

I wish I could show you photos of this strange and wonderful adventure, but they are embargoed for other (read: paying) uses. There's one photo, courtesy of Christian Pondella, at, and you can see some film production stills and climbing outtakes at and Andreas Spak's blog. The film of these bizarre climbs will air in July on NBC's "Jeep World of Adventure Sports." Trust me: This is one you don't want to miss.


Monday, May 07, 2007

North Face, Anyone?

Longs Peak's coveted North Face ski descent looks like it's in condition this week.