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Nate and I spent a week in the Ruth Gorge alternating between freezing our asses off and eating bacon. We managed to ski up to some peaks only to bail due to the impossibility of staying warm when not moving or in the direct sunlight. Everything froze except the scotch. Everything. And it only took about 20 minutes after getting off the plane for it to all freeze. So much for getting some climbing in the first week of spring. We’ll be back and for a lot longer but I think we’ll wait till April or May next year.

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FWA on Dragontail

On February 3rd and 4th, Nate Farr, Jens Holsten, and I climbed the Northeast Buttress on Dragontail. As far as we know, it hasn’t been climbed in the winter before. We climbed 16 pitches total with some pitches being long simul-climbing blocks. I think it worked out to some 1200 m of climbing at something along the lines of M5 5.7 A0.

The first day we hiked in and started climbing at 2 pm. We climbed six pitches up, did the rap off the big tower and climbed one last pitch to get to a sweet bivy ledge. After some excavating, we tucked in for the night and woke up above the clouds. An airy pitch over the north face led to lots of rampy climbing. We found a few short vertical sections, but most of the climbing was moderate. We topped out around 4:30 pm and had an uneventful descent. Snowmobile approach/deproach was kickass and sure made it more fun to do in two days.

More photos @ cc.com

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After two weeks out in Cody, WY and Bozeman, MT in December then plenty of torpor and lassitude from the holidays, it was time to get out climbing. Preferably something local and something icy. With high freezing levels and little snowfall in the last month, Jeff W. and I headed back to Illumination Rock. Slightly more rime build up than in December but cracks were easily found or dug out and the gear was solid throughout. 80 meters up and I got shut down by a glassy 8-inch wide crack with nothing for tools or crampons. 45 minutes of beating my head against it and trying to find a way around led to me bailing from there back to the deck. Turns out we climbed the first pitch of a route Donnie K. tried back in ’08 and started up a new route to the right of what he climbed. Would have liked to finish up what we started, but that will have to wait till later or perhaps next week.

Illumination Rock

Oregon isn’t know for its quality alpine climbing, much less mixed climbing; solid ice is hard to find, rock quality is poor, and cold temperatures don’t last. Mt. Hood is an unlikely candidate to have one of the best alpine mixed crags in Oregon, if not the whole Pacific Northwest. The northside of Illumination Rock (backside when viewed from Timberline) has several 120-150 meter mixed routes and the potential for another dozen.

Nate F. starting up Skylight

Nate F. below the crux of Skylight

Ice is snowmelt fed and starts to form in mid-to-late November and the routes are in good climbing shape until March. Climbing becomes easier but harder to protect as the rime builds up on Illumination Rock, but this can be seen from Timberline without having to suffer under the ski lifts for a couple hours.

Jeff W. on the traverse to Skylight

Myself on the crux of Skylight

The two established routes I know of are Skylight (M5, 150 m) and East Skylight (M5+, 120 m). Both routes exit through their respective skylights and traverse over to the summit.

View of I. Rock from the Reid Glacier

From the top of Illumination Rock, you can sling horns to rap off or downclimb to a rap station at the top of March Madness. Bring plenty of cordage and test any fixed gear as there isn’t much traffic to tidy rap stations up. I’d love to hear of any other routes folks put up on here and repeats of these routes.

Dan H. on the crux of East Skylight

Dan H. climbing into the sun on East Skylight

A quick couple day jaunt up to Canmore left me wanting. Got shut down twice on bigger routes, but managed to get some climbing in up in Ranger Creek and at Haffner. There was significantly more ice formed up in the Rockies than either of us expected and it almost felt like we were there too late, not too early. Perhaps a late October trip should be in the works for next year…

We managed to climb Blade & Chalice along with R&D in Ranger Creek, but it was stormy and windy as all get up. Haffner was pumpy as always and roofs never cease to kick my ass.

Looking forward to a few more ice trips north in the next month or so.

Last Friday, I headed up to Illumination Rock to reclimb Skylight on the Northwest face (backside) and see how things were looking for the season up there. Very different conditions than I expected to find. The rime ice on everything was well-bonded to the rock but low quality, so a lot of time was spent digging for gear and finding nothing. Easy sticks in the “ice” but every placement settled under weight. Coupled with a slightly questionable belay and dubious, sparse gear, the climbing was very cerebral. Three-dimensional rime climbing with sidepulls and plenty of awkwardness. I got two shitty pieces in 60 meters and called it quits at the next belay (after taking 30 minutes to dig for pro). There’s now a fixed baby angle with a rap ring about 1 meter to the left of a great belay stance after the 1st pitch. Someone with bigger balls should go get ‘er done.

Cameo in Canadia

Actually, three day weekends ARE long enough to make it up to the Canadian Rockies, get a few days of good climbing in, and scoot on back to Oregon in time for work on Monday. I’ve only ticked off 5 days of ice climbing so far this season, but most of them have been pretty worthwhile with the last few in Canada being no exception. Skander got to experience ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies and I got to push myself leading on some mixed and ice. Louise Falls was classic and it was fun to lead the pillar without having been on it before. Haffner was contrived and fun as it should be; plenty of new bruises from whipping on bolts. Time to pack up and head north again soon.