Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sending Off

And we're off!

We have packed our bags about three times, and will have to do it again before tomorrow. Drove 38 hours straight through from MA to ID. Spent a mere 3 days in Idaho before flying the 6 hours to Anchorage.

The trip finally feels like it actually happening. After months of preparation we have officially settled in here at the AirBNB in Talkeetna. We have a full house, including us four climbers and some of our family members. 

The Golden Raisin's, all together! PC- Kat Schick

We have been diligently watching the weather and the forecast is calling for plenty of snow. After talking to Sheldon Air Service (the airline set to take us into the glacier), we will be notified with little time when a window opens up to head out. Fingers crossed its sooner rather than later!

The last couple of days we have been finishing up with the 20+ food bags, sorting out the group gear for each person to take and touching up on all of the finishing tasks. We checked in with our air service yesterday and today we are scheduled for a climbers meeting with the park service. Now there is just the final touches on our gear and just a bit of waiting.

Home sweet home before the tent! PC- Kat Schick

I think I can speak for the entire group when I say we are all filled with pre climb butterflies. Excitement, some nerves and the unknown all lingers here in the house with us. 

If we strike out with weather we will be stuck here in town for longer than planned, and I can only imagine the nerves and excitement will only build. 

Picking up our sleds from SAS. PC- Kat Schick

So, with this I will officially be offline for a month while we are hopefully climbing on the mountain. At very least sitting in a tent waiting out some weather, reading lots of books, and playing suduko.

Cheers to us, the Golden Raisins, and to a good effort on whatever we find ourselves on in the next month! 

Going over the route with SAS. PC- Kat Schick

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Preparing for Alaska

If you would have approached me two years ago and told me I would be training and preparing to go to the Alaska Range I would have laughed and turned my head.

Even now I find it hard to believe when I look at photos of those mountains that we will be there in less than a month. I have mentioned Alaska very briefly in the last few posts, and felt like it was time to properly introduce our next adventure.

Mt Foraker and The Sultana Ridge continuing onto Pt.12,472 and Crosson
PC- Fedor Farberov (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia)

When Joe first mentioned going on a expedition to the Alaska Range to me last summer, I was quite unsure about the whole idea. Maybe more on the side of thinking that it was not going to happen anytime soon. So when we decided to shoot for the month of May in spring of 2018, we slowly went to work on getting our team and logistics together. With our main objective being the Sultana Ridge on Mt Foraker.

Mt Foraker (the indians native to the land call the mountain Sultana) sits in the central Alaska Range located in Denali National Park. Foraker is a mere 14 miles southwest of her much more popular partner, Denali. At 17,400ft, Foraker is the second highest mountain in the range, and third highest in the United States. In 2016, Denali saw 1,126 climbers, of which 675 got to the summit. Mt Foraker on the other hand, saw a total of 16 climbers, of which seven made it to the top. Credit: NPS.Gov  Although we are going to Alaska with the main objective being to climb Mt Foraker, we have a few other possible climbs lined up if things don't go as planned.

The Camps mark the route, Pt.12,472 is behind camp three on Crosson.
PC- Daeshik via Wikiloc

Our intended route up the mountain is the Sultana Ridge. Though the climb itself is not overly technical, it is quite long and committing. Requiring you to climb two substantial peaks and then traverse a long exposed ridge, before making it to the mountain itself. Where a 5,500ft summit day awaits you.

I am a new addition to Joe’s prior expedition team. Joe, his sister Melissa, and good friend Trav all climbed and summited Denali via the Muldrow Glacier. This will be their second expedition to the Alaska range, and my first. Overall, each one of us will bring something to the team, from knowledge, humor, encouragement, and different skills.

Melissa and I on our climb of Mt Hood, summer 2017

One of the most exciting things about the trip thus far has been naming our expedition team. If you look up “Sultana” in google, the first thing that comes up is Grapes. So after a little more research we quickly realized that in some countries golden raisins are called “Sultanas”. That coupled with the fact that we are all blonde, and don’t fair particularly well in the sun, we decided that The Golden Raisins would be a perfect expedition name.

Along with learning about the route, helping naming our team, and getting permits, I have had to purchase a lot of new gear for this trip… from sleeping bags, mats, clothes, parka, and other essential items. Out of all the preparation we have done so far though, training has taken up most of our time. We started methodically training even before we got back from New Zealand.

As I said in my last blog post, “Training for the New Alpinism” has been our own sort of “Bible”. Referencing that book and the companion website (Uphill Athlete), we have been scheduling our lives around running, hiking with heavy packs, days of doing strength workouts, and somewhere in our free time getting some climbing in.

First day of Training, doing the Alpine Combine in New Zealand

The whole training cycle, if done perfectly goes over 25+ weeks. Since were in New Zealand, we started a bit later and shortened our training to be at a total of 18 weeks from the time we started training to the day we take a plane out onto the glacier. At this point in time we are less than a month away and are at about 156 hours of training.

It's been difficult to try to balance traveling, climbing and life in general with such a strict training plan. So when last week looked like it might be our last time to get some ice climbing in this year we took the opportunity to try to get one more day in.

First 30ft on Chouinard's Gully

The transition from only toproping to now leading has opened up a whole new door of possibilities of routes to get on. So we drove up to Keene Valley, NY and scouted out Chouinard's Gully. A 300 ft, WI3 ice gulley right off the pond. With a 70m rope you can do the whole thing in two pitches, with an easy walk off at the end.

The morning of my first multi pitch climb I was filled with fluttering butterflies in my stomach. We left the car just before 8:00am and were at the base of the climb in about 15 minutes. I had placed all the screws, slings, cordelette and carabiners on my harness before we left the car so when we got to the climb all we had to do was tighten our boots and rope up. I was the first to lead and I was nervous! Once I started to climb, and placed my first screw the nerves fluttered away. Once out of the short steep section of the climb I felt like I was cruising. So mentally focused on the task at hand, by the time I got to the top of my pitch my calves quickly reminded me of the low angle ice, as it felt like they had been placed in a raging fire. I made an anchor around a tree and Joe climbed the full rope length up to me. Where we high fived, switched the lead and he was on his way. The sun never hit the climb, but for a spring day, it felt warm and the ice was soft. Joe lead the last pitch with good technique and excellent screws. Once he created the anchor I was quick to follow and got to the top where both of us were ecstatic on our first ice multi pitch.

At the belay, Joe on the second pitch, with Chapel Lake below us

We were back down at the car before noon, and spent the rest of the day climbing in the canyon. Both of us high as a kite after a good day. Most importantly an excellent way to close this years ice climbing season. Climbing 50 pitches of ice, both of us getting our first leads in, and finishing up with an excellent first multi pitch. What started out looking like it might be an iffy season for us, turned out to be truly outstanding.

With us not having to shuffle around trying to fit in ice climbing between cardio and strength workouts, we have stepped up and really started focusing on the last few weeks of training and prep before the trip.

Following Joe on the second pitch

With almost all of the gear gathered and purchased, we are moving onto food for the trip. With a projected 3 weeks of time in the Alaska Range, that means we will have to be packing 3 weeks of food for four people. You can get the idea how much that might weigh. So as we come up with each bag of food, we have to think of food items that will keep our appetites interest at 10,000+ ft. All the food you try to stay away from in everyday life with most likely be making an appearance in one of our food bags. Easily digestible, high calorie, low weight food items are the goal.

As the weeks start to countdown to days, our training intensifies before it tapers. This week consisted of over 16 hours of training. The following weeks will start to look more and more like what we will be actually be doing on the mountain.

After our climb, me on Chapel Pond. 300ft Chouinards is behind me.

After we all group together mid April for a last check over gear and big last training day, all four of us will be meeting up in Anchorage Alaska on April 26th.

Running laps on Hot Shot

The training, planning and expenses for this trip have all been more than I was expecting, but I think we are and have been doing the best we can to prepare ourselves for the trip. If we haven't, we will quickly know once we get there.

I am excited to keep all of you in the loop and try to blog along as the process continues! Cheers!

Happy Camper after our first MultiPitch

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Training, Climbing and an Avalanche Course

The leaves from last fall crunched under my feet as Joe, Melissa and I walked through a forest of maple trees towards Rose Ledge. It was hard to believe that not even a week before we were climbing frozen waterfalls on Lake Superior and now we were climbing warm gneiss in tank tops. The temperature swing from the upper UP was drastic, but we were far from discouraged. We put on rock shoes, slapped some chalk on our hands and went to the crag.

Double Helix (5.9) PC- JDSTYLOS

Being on the road, and traveling makes training a bit difficult. You take advantage of the resources you have… whether it be a playground or paying $5.00 for a day pass at a gym. So having the ability to settle in at Northampton and start to truly focus on training has been quite the relief.

Melissa on Beginner's Corner (5.7) PC- JDSTYLOS

The book “Training for the New Alpinism” [Steve House, Scott Johnson] has been our sort of “Bible”. We have read the book front to back, and reference it almost every day. Time seems to be flying by before we leave to Alaska, so we have had to shorten the training a bit… but I think we are making it work.

Our weeks revolve around training. Whether it be getting in an hour or more of running in, hiking with big heavy packs and a couple of times a week making sure to go down to the shed to get a strength workout in… all are so valuable for our objective.

Double Helix PC- JDSTYLOS

With all of the training, we find that we tend to feel pretty tired most of the time. For a bit, we were disappointed to see the weather up north in the Adirondacks and North Conway to have warm temperatures and rain, ultimately started to melt all the ice. So when a large winter storm system came into town we did not hesitate to put away our rock shoes, grab the tools and go north.

The ice was revived by snowy days and cold temperatures. Joe, Melissa and I drove into the parking lot of Chapel Pond to find it full with other climbers. A bit of a shock for a Monday, but nevertheless we hiked down through the canyon to find some ice and were successful.


When you talk to any other climber about leading on ice it's never really a light subject. Like I said before in my last blog, falling on ice has high consequence. So when I considered leading on ice, I told myself I wouldn't lead until I felt like I was not only physically ready but mentally ready. This season my mindset had a bit of a shift, going from there's no way I will lead, to considering it, then finally getting to the point of… “yes, I am ready for this”.


When the weather looked like it was not going to cooperate for the rest of the season, I wondered if we were going to be able to get one last climb in. So when our chance emerged, both Joe and I were looking for good climbs to do our first leads.


Joe started the day out on a 180ft climb called Midnight Cruiser. A WI3, with a thin and awkward start. Not only did he start the day on this climb, but he lead it. I gave him a belay and watched him climb out of sight. I heard him yell “off belay!” and knew he was at the top! First lead checked off for him! By the time I was climbing and got up to him, I congratulated him but also questioned if I actually wanted to lead the same climb.

Joe's First Lead Midnight Cruiser, WI3

By the time we all regrouped at the bottom of the climb, we looked to our right and saw a perfect 110ft climb called “Quinn’s Eskimo”. Without the weird awkward start, this WI2/3 was much more appealing, so I racked up and tied in. Before I climbed I didn't really know what to expect, but as I started to swing my tools and place the screws, it was as if a mental calm came over me. With the ice grade low, and not extremely challenging, it gave me the ability to really focus on safe, and accurate climbing. Once I reached the top, I gave out a hollar, made an anchor and came back down. Melissa followed, and Joe finished up the day with his second lead.

Melissa Climbing the Main Flow of Lion's on a Beach, WI4

The next day we were the first climbers out into the canyon and set a top rope on a more difficult climb, that neither Joe or I felt ready to lead. Lions on the Beach is a wide WI4 flow, with plenty of options to climb. Each time I climbed I had climbed a different line by setting a directional above us. From mock leading the main flow, to delicate climbing on a thin smear far left that was never more than an inch thick, to climbing far right on some technical bulges and pillars. We all got a full days worth of climbing in. Even though there wasn't any leading like the day before, it gave us all a chance to have some fun on more difficult ice.

Climbing the 1/2 in smear, far left on Lions

Anyone who has been to the backcountry in the winter, or when there is snow involved knows that one of the biggest concerns is avalanche danger. With our Alaska trip quickly approaching, Melissa, Joe and I all signed up for an AAIRE 1 course with Synnott Mountain Guides in North Conway, New Hampshire. With another big storm approaching, the snow conditions were going to be perfect, and we drove up to New Hampshire feeling excited.

Climbing Far Right, Lions on a Beach WI4+

The first day was all classroom work. Learning terminology, heuristics, different types of avalanches, reading avalanche forecasts, and what to be prepared for in the backcountry. This class was a perfect balance of not teaching you how to run away from avalanches but learning how to safely travel through avalanche terrain. The next two days focused on this concept.

Joe Climbing Far Right on Lions

We met up with our teachers and classmates at the lodge to do a quick day brief before heading out on the Tuckerman Ravine trail at the base of Mt. Washington on Saturday morning. With the fresh powder surrounding us, the place was packed with skiers and climbers looking for fresh new lines. We hiked along the trail and as we did, our instructors taught us about informal snow tests, and what to keep an eye out for. We took time to learn how to use our Avalanche beacons and about partner rescue.

The Belay... PC-JDSTYLOS

The next day we all met up once again, did a quick brief before planning to climb up into the base of Huntington Ravine. Our two instructors took us to where we could see all the climbs in the ravine. From Central, to Damnation, and Pinnacle, he pointed all of them out to us. We admired the possibilities of future climbing. Our teachers demonstrated digging a snow pit, and we all took turns feeling for different layers in the snow. After a couple hours working and learning in the snow we came to the conclusion to continue further up into the terrain. We practiced safe travel through avi terrain and once we got to our high point, us three snowshoers watched the skiers ski through gorgeous uncarved powder. I’m a skier, but I have never skinned our done anything in the backcountry. After watching them ski down away from us, I was quick to make a mental note to get me a good pair of touring skis someday.

Shake it out.... PC- JDSTYLOS

Overall the AAIRE 1 course was indispensable. We may not be in as much avi terrain as a backcountry skier, but as climbers we do find ourselves in similar situations. I went from being completely blind about avalanches to feeling like I now have the necessary tools to make an educated decision on whether today is a good day, or maybe to end on a good note and come back later.

Melissa... PC-JDSTYLOS

After many hours out in the wind and snow, we said our goodbyes to North Conway and made the drive to Eastport, Maine to visit with Joe’s mom. With less than six weeks till we fly out to Alaska, I think we are all feeling the pressure to get everything in line to go. From purchasing gear, to making a food list and tracking the route on topo maps. Everything is slowly coming together, but at the same time it still feels like we have so much to do! There has been a lot of things about preparing for this expedition that I haven't quite expected but also as we get closer, the excitement starts to build… The ice has made a rebound up north, so as we train, pack and prep for Alaska, we will climb too!



Monday, February 26, 2018

The Michigan Ice Fest

There were still green leaves on the trees when I signed us up for the Michigan Ice Fest last year. After having a successful time there in February of 2017, we both felt it was a no brainer to attend again this year.

The Amphitheater PC-JDSTYLOS

The MIF may be a bit out of the way for a lot of climbers, but that doesn't seem to deter anyone. Hundreds of our small community come from all of the country to get on some of the famous ice pillars that the upper peninsula is known for. With this in the back of our minds, we decided to head to Munising a week in advance to get on some ice before the crowds arrived.

We drove the 1,283 mi from Bozeman to Munising in a long two day push. We overnighted (in the car) in North Dakota, where temperatures lingered around -16 degrees Fahrenheit. After two days of driving, we were itching to get on some ice. The morning after driving, we did not hesitate to put on our climbing gear and start hiking along the lake shore.


The entire hike we didn't see another climber, a rarity it seemed since last year the trails were well used. We had a general idea of where some of the ice would be, and we knew that the likelihood of finding ice would be high. If you find a small stream above a cliff, you're bound to find an icy oasis below.

It didn't take us long to find our first objective. We hiked down into a small gulley and quickly set up a rappel. I peered below my feet to find a pillar that had no evidence of human contact in quite some time. With cold temperatures the ice was hard and brittle. I went to flick my tool into the ice and my tool harshly bounced back at me. I tried again, only to have the ice break away in protest. This was no Hyalite Canyon ice, where every tool was placed and greeted by sticky ice. Michigan was going to make you work to climb these pillars.

Sweet Mother Moses PC-JDSTYLOS

Joe and I both climbed a couple of times before venturing along the bottom of the cliffs to explore the ice formations. From above, you can’t see much of what is down below. So we took advantage of our location and admired the ice from a different perspective.

The next day we moseyed out of bed, and walked out to a small formation called Twin Falls. We got the chance to hangout with some other climbers that were also here for the fest. Though this climb wasn’t very tall, both Joe and I started working on our climbing technique and more importantly our leading. Leading on ice is a completely different story than leading on rock. With the chance of breaking your ankles and worse in the case of a fall, you do your best to never put yourself in a position to fall. So on top rope, Joe and I placed screws and practiced clipping the rope, perfecting the essential skills.

Our Entry for The Michigan Ice Fest Photo Contest... The Amphitheater at night.
Stay tuned for more details!

Last year when we arrived in Michigan, on our first day of climbing we met some climbers who we spent the day with. Since then we followed each other on facebook and when I saw that they were in town getting on some ice, I was quick to reach out and ask if they wanted to meet up. So on our third day of being in Michigan the TuTu crew, Joe and I walked the mile across the east channel of Lake Superior to Grand Island. Ice flowed from one end of the cliff to the other, and formed massive pillars. Endless amounts of climbing was to be had.

East Channel of Grand Island

The wind came across the lake with a vengeance and we sought shelter in a large sandstone cave. A few guys from their crew set up ropes and we all took turns running laps on the ice. With a -14F wind chill, all I wanted to do was to get on the ice to stay warm, as ironic as that sounds. Each time I climbed, I felt like I was chopping away to find good placements with my tools, and was constantly having to shake the blood back into my hands. With Lake Superior behind me, and with the pillar I was climbing framed by ice daggers, it made a for a surreal setting. We all took turns on the cie, some wearing tutu’s and all of us cheering each other on to make it to the top.

Grand Island PC-JDSTYLOS

As the day progressed, the weather shifted and the wind on the lake got more intense, and the temperature dropped. We opted to make the trek back across the lake mid afternoon. It was hard to see where we were going, as the wind whipped spindrift into our faces. With a good navigator at the front of the group, we made it back with no issues. After a fun day on the ice, we said our goodbyes and were already talking about trying to meet up again for more climbing next year.

Yes.. that is me climbing in a tutu!

The first few days we were here we had been making the car home, and of course settled in quickly (even with below 0 temperatures). Before we arrived in Michigan we decided to book an AirBNB for later in the week and found one with the Midwest Mountaineering crew. As much as Ruby is wonderful and has given us a place to sleep, having a real house and bed while the temperatures dwindled well below freezing was beyond enjoyable. We stayed the rest of our time in Michigan at the house, with good people.

Grand Island PC-JDSTYLOS

With such success on Grand Island the day before, we decided to head to the west shore on the other side of the island. Singing Carl, a well known local (especially within the climbing community) gives climbers snowmobile rides out to the island. He drove up and offered us a ride along with a few others. We climbed into sleds behind the snowmobile and tried to keep our breakfast in our stomachs as we were violently shaken all the way across the channel to the island. After we got off, we said thank you and hiked around to find the ice. Similar to Sandpoint, you can’t see much of the ice below you. We took the chance and hiked down to the lake shore and found something that looked fairly interesting. From the shore, the climb was about 175 feet long, so we had to climb up a bit to do a top rope belay. We managed to get some good climbing in and got the chance to practice some belaying from above. Unlike a lot of the ice we had been climbing on prior to this, this ice was wet and fairly sun dried. You had to break a lot of the ice away to find the good stuff. After we climbed we hiked out to meet up with Carl and get a ride back to town.

Singing Carl

Along with the climbing, the Michigan Ice Fest offers great presentations from professional athletes. Those presentations had started the night before. Early in the week they started with small, and personal presentations at the school before moving onto the bigger auditorium later in the week.

When I signed us up for the ice fest last fall, I also signed us up for an Intermediate Ice class. We met up with our class and teachers at the school before heading out to the ice AKA the schoolroom. One of our instructors, Anna Pfaff recommended a pair of North Face pants to me via instagram and asked if i was the “pant girl from instagram” when we met! When we arrived to the ice, our group and the intro to leading group joined up to form one large class. There was a bit of a mix up as to which class was suppose to be on which ice. Though it was a bit of a large group, it worked out well. We got the chance to listen to multiple pro athletes teach, including Anna Pfaff, Jon Jugenheimer, Jesse Huey and Colten Moore. We were a bit more advanced than most of our fellow climbers in our class. But the chance to spend an entire day watching others climb, learning about screw placements, and getting the chance to climb and get some critique was well worth it.

Anna Pfaff and Jon showing us how to work on foot technique

We made it back to headquarters and spent that evening watching a presentation put on by Jesse Huey. Along with giving a presentation, he came up to the stage with a pair of ice tools in his hands. He offered to give the person who could come up to the stage, in their underwear, and plank the longest a new set of tools! People did not hesitate. While he talked about some of his accomplishments people shook with fatigue. After what seemed like 15 plus minutes the winner was announced... in his underwear… on stage…. but hey- he got new tools!

Gotta work for those tools! PC-JDSTYLOS

We took advantage of the AirBNB the next day and took a rest day, barely leaving the couch and watching the olympics. After climbing so many days in a row our bodies were in need of a day where we did nothing.

That night though, we headed back to headquarters where the largest of the presentations were happening and the famous gear raffle. We listened to Sasha Digiullian and Angela Vanwiemeersch talk about their own experience climbing in the UP. After them, Aaron Mulkey came up and gave us a great presentation on first ascents all throughout Cody, Wyoming. Both talks were inspirational and did not fail to light the fire to go out and do cool things.

Inspirational ladies! PC-JDSTYLOS

The one advantage to the MIF raffle, is the fact that everyone gets the same chance to win. If you sign up, you get only ONE ticket, instead of being able to buy as many as you please. Even with the same chance as everyone else, both of us came up short and didn’t win.

We signed up for the American Alpine club again, where we got to be apart of the raffle for that, where I won a belt buckle and Joe won a ice climbing book! We walked over to the 387 and danced with a bunch of climbers, and enjoyed the fireworks to wrap up a good evening.

The night after we had our class, Jon Jugenheimer had pulled us aside and asked if Joe and I wanted to join him and his wife on Sunday for a day of climbing on Grand Island. We did our best to keep our cool, but of course were beyond excited to get the chance to go climb with a well known athlete.

Our ride... PC-JDSTYLOS

We met up with Jon, his wife Liz and a couple of their friends on Sunday morning for half a days worth of climbing. There was a bit of a hold up for transportation and as we all started to walk across the frozen lake, a yellow corvette of an airboat pulled up and welcomed us inside. The company that makes these boats is called 1000 Island Airboats. They consist of a regular looking boat frame with a large fan on the back. With 16 layers of fiberglass, they are incredibly light, and have the ability to skim across ice and water... or both! So when we were flying across the ice, it was hard to not keep the smile off my face. We searched for the ice from the inside of the heated boat and all piled out when we found something promising.

Grand Island PC-JDSTYLOS

The better climbers lead the routes and Joe and I watched trying to take the exceptional climbing in. By the time we both hopped on the ropes, I was quick to realize that some of this ice would be the hardest ice climbing I had ever done. The route that Jon had lead, was slightly overhanging. I walked up to the climb to see the sky disappear and to be filled with ice. I climbed and struggled, but managed to get to the top. We walked down the lake for some more climbing. The next climb felt easy compared to the overhanging route we all had just climbed and we finished the day on a very vertical column, that pumped out your forearms and pressured you for perfect technique.

Jon leading

All in all it was a surreal experience. There really isn’t enough thanks to go out to Jon for letting us tag along and letting us get some climbing in on some ice that we would have otherwise not been able to climb. Not sure why he chose us, but we sure are grateful and hope to get some more climbs in with them in the future!


After our last day of climbing in Munising we stayed one more night at the BNB and hung out with our roommates. The next morning we left before the sun came up and drove towards Massachusetts.


It was bittersweet driving away from Munising, as the week seemed to fly by. I can truly see us going back there for years to come. This time around, many more friendships were made and I think I can see that our future trips there will all be better and more fulfilling than the last.

The Cave

It took us a day and a half to get to Mass and when we arrived the sun was shining and we went for a run in 70 degree temperatures. We have had a season of up and down temperatures, and with the ups comes the melting of ice. So our fingers are crossed that one last cold spell will come through New England before spring comes to stay. In the meantime we are training hard for our Alaska trip and spending lots of money on gear!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Back to the Ice

While we were in New Zealand, I remember sitting on the beach, next to the lake and soaking up the sun and enjoying the southern hemisphere summer. Being a person who loves to do things in the winter, I found myself stalking the weather conditions back home and even though the sunshine and lake were beyond beautiful, I could not help myself when I counted down the days till we were able to go climb some ice.

Yellow Pine, Idaho PC-JDSTYLOS

When we got home, Joe, my family and I drove north to McCall Idaho. We took advantage of being a bit farther north and met up with our ice climbing friend George. All three of us drove the long drive even further north to Yellow Pine in search of any possible ice. We found a small 25ft curtain right off the side of the road, you could literally belay from the car if you wanted to. Even though this flow was small and not exactly super exciting, all three of us took the opportunity to practice technique, and to hop on a mixed climb just to the left of the ice.

Once back in Boise the temperatures soared. Birds chirped, the grass seemed to be turning green, even flowers were trying to pop up out of the ground. Not ideal temperatures for ice. So, after two weeks of spending time with my family in Idaho, Joe and I packed up the mobile humble abode and officially headed east.

Last year, on our way back west we drove through Bozeman and finished the 2017 ice climbing season. This season we hit Bozeman first on our way to the east coast. Both Joe and I read about unreal conditions in Hyalite. Some routes that had not been climbed in decades were being climbed, and all the ice was in. Having a very good friend in Bozeman it makes staying and climbing here so enjoyable. We drove into town and settled in, and the following day we made our way into the canyon and met up with George and his friend John.

George Leading Jeff's Right PC-JDSTYLOS

I couldn't help but smile the entire way up to the first large ice climb of 2018. Conditions were perfect, and with no else on our side of the canyon we had first pick of all the climbs. We settled on a nice WI3 called Jeffs Right to start on. This route was fairly deceiving, the hardest part wasn't necessarily the steepness, but the length required far more endurance than anyone expected. After George lead that and set up a top rope, he brought up John and he set up a rope on a flow just right of the first climb. All four us us took laps on Jeff’s Right and on Magically Delicious (a short WI4 with a cool mixed climb to the left of the ice).By the time we headed out for the day all of us were pretty spent.

Magically Delicious PC-JDSTYLOS

The following day, both Joe and I were feeling quite ambitious and drove up to Hyalite with quite the pep in our step. Since both of us are still perfecting technique and are just getting ready to start leading we headed towards a climb we knew we could top rope on our own. We arrived to Genesis I and no one was there. So of course, we picked what we thought would be the most fun line. As Joe went and set up a rope, more and more people started to shuffle in. By the time we finally started climbing, there was no space on the ice for anyone to set up another rope. As I put my tools into the ice my hands and arms burned in exhaustion. My enthusiasm covered up the fact the my whole body was feeling quite fatigued. So after a couple routes on the 80ft WI4+, we chose to call it a day and head back to the house.

When we were not climbing, we took the chance to spend an evening at the Bozeman Hot Springs with friends before heading to the local burger bar for dinner. I also got the chance to see and ride a horse I used to take care of while working at Aspen.

After receiving a message on FB from an ice climbing friend that had seen that we were in Bozeman, we decided to meet up with him and go climbing after a rest day. I met Matt Ward the first day I went ice climbing, and climbed with him one more time that season and haven't seen him since. I've stayed in touch the last couple of years, and watched his climbing excel. So when the chance came up for him to not only be our rope gun, guide, and teacher for a day, we jumped for the opportunity.

Matt Leading Scepter PC-JDSTYLOS

We started our day out with a hike up to Sceptor, a 100ft WI5 and one of the most classic climbs in all of Hyalite. With snow dumping out of the sky, when we walked up to the climb and my heart might have skipped a beat. This massive, vertical, waterfall of ice was framed by some of the most beautiful wilderness one could ever imagine. Matt geared up and lead the whole thing in style. Not only did he make it look easy but he made it look wicked fun. So when it was my turn to climb I tied my knot and was quickly ready to get climbing. The first part of the climb was hard ice, almost mushroomed in appearance. It quickly got straight vertical, and that's when you could feel all that technique practice come into play. By the time I got back down to the ground I was beaming. Joe climbed it next with just as much enthusiasm and with solid technique. We both were enthralled with what we were going to climb next.


We hiked and wallowed through deep snow to get to our next climb. A large cave was just under the ice and I stood in there and belayed Matt while we he climbed to the top. I couldn't see Matt but I could see all of the spindrift coming from the slopes above. Even though this climb was only rated a WI4, it was tricky! The ice narrowed near the top and your body wanted to barn door off from one side to the next.

Matt Leading The Matrix PC-JDSTYLOS

With time ticking away we didn't have much daylight left for too much more so we ventured down and got the chance to climb a difficult M5. Neither Joe or I had done any sort of mixed climbing until we were in Yellow Pine with George. So after Matt lead the route (White Zombie), and set up a top rope he coached us through some techniques and other ways to get through the hard sections. Both Joe and I rock climb and ice climb but who knew combining the two would be so exciting! I’ve always hesitated to put my tools on rock. With the idea of scraping very sharp tools and ultimately the rock making them very dull has never been appealing. But after these last two experiences mixed climbing, I wouldn't be surprised if we find ourselves doing it more and more.

White Zombie PC-JDSTYLOS

We said our goodbye to Matt and couldn't be more thankful for his time, and patience with us. Having him climb with us made for a fun experience and we got to hop on routes we would of otherwise never gotten the chance to climb.

A couple of days passed and we went for one last adventure to Hyalite and hiked up to Palisade falls. After not feeling to confident about the quality of the ice near the top of the climb we decided to not climb and instead we went for a hike before headed back to the car.

Start of The Matrix PC-JDSTYLOS

We’ve started packing up all of our gear, loading it into the car and with that we are getting ready to say goodbye to Hyalite Canyon and Bozeman! It’s always amazing how fast time can fly. We are heading east tomorrow towards Munising, Michigan for the Ice Fest for the second year in a row.

Huge thanks to the Maxwell crew for letting us crash at their home, and George, Matt and John for showing us a killer time in Hyalite Canyon. What a world class place to get the chance to climb!

Palisade Falls PC-JDSTYLOS