|The famous Jack Rabbit at Wall Drug|
It was quite the bitter-sweet feeling we had when we packed up the afternoon on the 8th of February and said goodbye to all of Joe’s family and got into the car to officially head west before start work for the season.
When I say we went west I mean we went north, back to the Adirondacks to be exact. For more ice climbing, as I am sure most of you would guess.
No time was wasted and we were up bright and early the next day to start climbing. There was a bit of heat spell from the last time we were here so when we arrived it was slightly drippy but ended up looking surprisingly well.
The route we chose for the day was called “Ice Slot”. A WI4 right next to “Hot Shot” where we climbed last time. This route ended up not being what we had hoped. After some tricky lines and the ice not being ideal, we both climbed about 3 times and called it a day.
In the morning we woke up to a breezy but wonderfully sunny day and opted to go for a hike instead of climbing more ice. After a little searching around, we decided to hike up Hurricane Mountain. With just over 2000 ft of elevation gain, this hike ended up being a small resemblance of climbing a big mountain. Walking up to a ridge line, then a short steep section to a very windy and cold summit. After almost getting blown off the fire tower at the top, we hiked down. Feeling pretty proud of ourselves after a very successful hike, (the first real hike of the year) we decided to celebrate with some $8.00 pizza at Stewarts gas station.
|Lots of driving on snowy roads with pretty cabins|
Saying our goodbyes to the Adirondacks until hopefully next year, we started driving towards Canada. We knew there was a big storm coming through but we were both hopeful to find some ice. The idea of having some Canadian ice experience under our belts and on our climbing resume was very intriguing. So we arrived at the border crossing and were promptly searched before we were allowed to cross the border. It ended up not being super thorough and we were on our way with no problems.
As we drove further north the sky started to darken and the snow began to fall. Before we knew it we were driving in a bit of snow storm. After a few hours we arrived at the ice where we had hoped to climb and were not super impressed. Not a great place to set up a top rope and it was getting late, with the storm starting to worsen. So after 4 hours of driving north we started driving back south towards Ottawa. The next morning the snow was starting to thicken as we drove to Tim Horton’s and enjoyed a delicious breakfast that is customary to being in Canada, or so I’ve heard.
|Right before the wiper was "wiped out"|
Throughout the day, our small snowstorm grew a considerable amount. The ice on the windshield prevented us from seeing so we pulled over to scrape the windshield wipers before continuing. I scraped away the unwanted ice and with one final flick on the driver side wiper, the wiper itself flew dramatically into the snow. What could have halted our forward progress until after the storm ended up being a fairly straightforward fix. After a little tinkering, a rubber band and one hair tie, we tied it back into place and were back on the road.
We spent the rest of the day and some of the night, white knuckle driving through the Canadian snowstorm towards Michigan. We slept at a truck stop feeling so relieved to be done driving till the next day.
|Joe climbing on the Curtains|
We arrived mid morning to the US border and were greeted with a smiling face and a couple of questions before we drove through with no issues. Our objective was to get into Munising, Michigan for the upcoming weekend Michigan Ice Festival.
Munising was such a nice relief to the winter driving that we had spent the last few days enduring. Not to mention the ice, as you looked down the shores of Lake Superior all you can see is walls of ice. The ice in Munising is so unique, large amphitheaters with pillars of ice that range in size and difficulty. So much so, that there are too many to count. Across the lake on Grand Island, the cliff face doesn't show a piece of rock. The ice extends hundreds of feet back down to the lake to create endless hours of climbing available for those willing to cross the frozen lake.
PC- Jared Apuuli
Our first day in Munising was a day well spent. There are plenty of well known climbs in the area that are close to the road and we decided to get the lay of the land by climbing at the Curtains for our first climb. We got to the base of the climb to arrive to a few other climbers who kindly let us hop on their rope and get a warm up climb in. They started to talk about having a tutu for TuTu Tuesday and I thought they were joking until they pulled it out and Joe promptly put it on and climbed away. After some good laughs, we said our goodbyes and hopped on another route just nearby before hiking down to a very well known climb called the “Dryer Hose”. Which ended up having a class of climbers on it so we called it a day and went back to the car.
That evening rather than celebrating Valentines day over a fancy dinner with roses and chocolates we opted to go back to the Dryer Hose and do some night climbing and maybe some photography. As we got to the base of the climb the beautiful blue sky was quickly swallowed by grey clouds that brought wind and snow as the sun dipped below the horizon. The climb was wet, and as we climb we were getting quite the rain shower. The trouble of only having two of us for climbing photography, is the fact that we both are busy when we're climbing. One climbs and the other has to belay. Which leaves no one to take the photos. So Joe would set up the camera on a tripod and I would hopefully be able to light up the climb with the flash while still belaying. After more than a few shots, and both of us climbing, we were able to get one great photo. I don't think either of us would've enjoyed celebrating Valentine's Day any other way.
|The Dryer Hose on Valentines Day 2017|
The next day we slept in after a night of climbing and were glad we weren't braving the outdoor weather because the storm that had blown in the night before was relentless. Cold, and blowing snow from the lake made for an unpleasant day to be anywhere outside. So instead we enjoyed a signature meal from the upper peninsula called a Pasty (and no, its not what you think it is!). If you ever get the chance to go and enjoy this part of the country I highly recommend one of these tasty treats. This day was the first day of the Michigan Ice Festival, so that night there was the first of many evening presentations that were to come.
Knowing that the week ahead was to only bring in more climbers to the ice and the temperatures were going to rise. We opted to get up bright and early on Thursday morning and broke trail before the sun rose. After 2 hours and more than two miles later we walked to the top of a climb, which neither of us knew what would be below the edge. Once we rappelled down to the base of the climb, the pillar in front of us was immense but so beautiful. I climbed first and was taken aback by how hard the climb ended up being. Quite vertical and tall, it ended up being one of the harder pillars on the lake shore (which we later found out). After we knew we only had one more climb left in us we had to climb the pillar with our backpacks on, to hike out. Which so happened to be my first time climbing ice with a backpack on. By the time I had made it to the top of the climb I was pooped. Plus, we still had a 2.7 mile hike back out to the car. After a long morning, we had some lunch and hung out until that night's presentation with Ari Novak and Tim Emmett.
|Joe on Midnight Rambler WI4+|
Feeling fairly tired the next day we mostly just hiked around and listened to some of the clinics going on. The ice was packed with climbers and the weather was warming up. As you walked from one pillar to the next you could see the warm temperatures melting away the already fragile ice. Another evening was spent listening to Anne Gilbert Chase and Vince Anderson, who both gave great presentations.
Saturday was another day where we spent most of the day listening to clinics being taught. We did get the chance to listen to Will Gadd teach his intermediate ice class. Both Joe and I felt that if we had the chance next year to join in on any class we would love to join in a class with him. Saturday night was the big night for presentations. We watched the film Meru and enjoyed a Q&A with Conrad Anker, listened to Will Gadd’s presentation and Conrad Anker came back to give his personal presentation later on that evening. Afterwards one of the best gear raffles in the country was underway and sadly we didn't win anything from that raffle but did get a chance to win a couple of things from the American Alpine Club raffle. If you had signed up over the weekend with the club (which both Joe and I did) then you got a chance to be in the raffle. You see though, it was a raffle where everyone could win. Even so, it ended up being a late night after waiting in lines for some of the climbers autographs and by the time we got back to the car it was pretty late.
|The Badlands in a warm setting sun|
The next morning we tried to replicate our very successful early day of climbing on Thursday and once again we broke trail before the sun peaked over the horizon. We had a bit more of an idea of which climbs we would pass along the way. Sadly, one after the other each climb was a skeleton of what it used to be just a few days before. The warm temperatures had easily melted out most of the climbs in the area. We called it a day and as we were hiking the two miles back to the car you could hear ice falling in the distance and knew we had probably made a good choice.
We were officially headed west towards Bozeman, Montana. Just like in our typical fashion though we made sure to have a few stops along the way. It took us a day or two of driving but we arrived into Badlands National Park in the morning and ended up spending the day hiking around and going for a run in a warm 70 degrees. We spent the evening doing some sunset and night photography. Something we haven't done for a few months and made it feel like we had gone back in time to last fall.
Keeping up with our productive streak, the day after the Badlands we drove up to go see Mt Rushmore. Joe had seen the memorial before but I had not. With it being on the way we made sure to stop by and take a look. Being a rock climber and knowing the immense size and strength of big granite walls, I was greatly impressed by what the undertaking Mt. Rushmore must of been.
After walking through the museum there, we drove just a few miles down to Crazy Horse. To those of you who don't know what Crazy Horse is, you can read all about it here. I thought Mt Rushmore was impressive but I was almost speechless at the work that is going into such a project just down the road from such a famous American monument. Even barely finished, Crazy Horse drowns Mt Rushmore with its sheer size.
So with that we hit the road once more and were about a day out from Bozeman. After spending the night in a Walmart parking lot we spent our last day of driving in quite the snow storm. The notorious I-90 was not kind to us for about the first hour and a half and made for slick and scary roads. Once the weather cleared up, we had a pretty straight forward drive to arrive into Bozeman earlier this week.
Our good friend from Aspen has a great place here in Bozeman and kindly offered for us to stay for a couple of weeks. Another perk is that, just outside of Bozeman is Hyalite Canyon. Which could possibly have some of the only ice that hasn't melted out in the country. We’ve already managed to get some great climbing in and are hoping to climb a few more times before the season is officially over. We joined in on a Mardi Gras party and have spent some time with great friends that we haven't seen in awhile.
|George Leads Genesis I, while I belay.|
I just flew out of Bozeman for a few days, for my first job commitment of the year. Joe plans to stay in Bozeman while I work for 6 days. Once I get back here next week we will climb some more then drive back to Idaho, where it all began!