Monday, February 22, 2010

The Southerner's return to ice

Day 1 (Saturday)
What a weekend!  Hope everyone got out to enjoy the current fatness.  Ice climbing conditions were perfect in the Laurel Highlands.  Longtime climbing friend Matt Johns finally made the drive up from Kentucky for some ice climbing.  It'd been about 9 or 10 years since Matt has climbed ice.  For many years the conditions seemed to have thwarted all attempts Matt has made to come climb ice.  Well this was the year.  Laura and I were in need of another rest day and Matt needed a slight refresher on the art of ice climbing. Schoolhouse was our destination for Saturday.  After a delicious breakfast at Valley Dairy, we drove to Ohiopyle.  The road into Mitchell parking hadn't been plowed so we had to park at the main parking area in town and snwoshoe 4 miles into the climb.  Matt's an adventurous guy and Laura likes to hike so we decided it was a nice way to spend the day.
Laura and Matt starting the day. Photo TA

We set off from the parking area and the going wasn't bad the first 1.75 miles.  Snowmobiles had been down the rail trail packing the snow and making for easy travels.  Stopped by a downed tree, the easy going ended there.  Breaking trail in the deep snow was the norm the rest of the way.  I was pulling Laura's and my gear on a sled and Matt was packing his own.  It took about 2 hrs for us to reach the crag.  I had been worried about the ice conditions with all the sun beating down.  Matt and Laura had slowed down a good bit in the final 1/2 mile push to the climb.  He was very excited upon his arrival at the cliff. We found the ice in snowcone condition.  I quickly geared up and climbed the route.  I belayed Matt up as Laura took some photos. 

Matt had a good time seconding the climb and getting back onto ice after so many years.  We left it rigged on the shuts and walked down.  We took turns climbing the quickly deteriorating ice.  We finished up a little before 3 o'clock.  While packing up our gear Dr. Bob and Regina came walking up the trail to the cliff.  We briefly chatted then let them get to climbing as the route didn't appear that it would be climbable much longer.  Surprisingly the hike out felt a little better than the hike in.  At one point Laura hopped on the sled with all the gear to take the easy way out. She was grinning ear to ear during her 1/2 mile of sleighing through the woods.   She was surprised I could manage the load and her.  It was the least I could do since I didn't get her a valentines present this year.  At the car we snapped a photo and made our way to dinner at Tall Cedars in Donegal.  We all agreed that the day was a lot of fun.  The weather was warm and it was great to get Matt on the elusive route.  Remember Matt, the cliff is always 10min. away!

Laura climbing Flying Dutchman. Photo TA

One of many bent trees on the way out. Photo LH

Laura's view on the Schoolhouse shuttle. Photo LH

The happy crew

The southerner says - mmm mmm good eatin'. Sneak photo LH

Day 2 (Sunday)
We enjoyed our "casual day" Saturday saving our energy for a climbfest on Sunday.  We met Joel Torretti, Dr. Bob, Regina, Mike, and Kenny at another local cliff.  I think Matt was impressed at his first sighting of the crag.  We stopped at the top and I pointed out the different lines while Laura took some pics.
Matt & I checking out the routes. Photo LH

We made our way down to the climbs.  Matt and I decided to start the day on Called on Account of Security.  It was in the best conditions I've ever climbed it.  The normal mixed start was buried under about 12' of snow.  It was still thin through the bottom, with a huge middle pillar and a slightly thin finish.  It was a lot of fun.  

The super fat middle of Called on Account of Security WI4. Photo LH

Matt Johns seconding Called on Account of Security. Photo LH

Laura was giving Joel a belay on G Gully.  He led the initial pillar and threaded off.   Mike and Kenny did the same on the Central left pillar.  Ropes were left on all the lines while we all took turns climbing each of the lines.  After our warm ups, Joel racked up for the line he tried last week.  He quickly made his thread and pushed up the next step to below the crux.  He went up to the crux, poked around a bit and backed down to the rest stance.  This happened several times before commiting to the moves.  He worked up through on the third try, placing several screws and looking solid.   He did a great job of keeping it together and finishing what he started the week ago.  Congrats on the send Joel! What's it called?

Joel Torretti on his new unamed line. Photo LH

My goal for the weekend was to get back on my attempted route from Valentines day.  Regina and Bob finished up on Called on Account of Security and it was "Go Time"  The route looked slightly better or should I say "wetter" than last weekend.  Some new blue ice graced the top of the climb concealing the V threads from the week before, all the while making the final bulge a bit bulgier.   The water was really running on the route.  Temps were on the rise and I wasn't sure if I would get another shot next weekend or even the rest of the season.  I figured it might be my last chance.  I tied in and started up the route with Matt on the catch. 

A cool perspective of me starting up the route. Photo LH

Climbing through one of the earlier crux sections. Photo LH

I found the climbing to feel a tad easier than the previous week.  Still very commiting, but not as much work clearing the rotten shit as I had on last Sunday's attempt.  Knowing the route, I utilized all the possible rests and things went well (except for dropping my lucky BD stubbie in the snow.  Gone forever!)

Finishing up the FFA of World of Pain WI 5+  Photo LH

Matt instilled great confidence as my belayer.  I placed nowhere near the number of screws as the week before.  Pulling the final bulge and not being pumped gave me a great sense of accomplishment.  I placed an anchor screw, clipped in and relaxed.  The view from the top was sweet.  In a fine show of style Matt offered Laura to second my send.  Thanks Matt!   She did incredible showing smooth, effortless climbing.   Matt was 3rd up the line doing a great job and enjoying the climb.  I'm glad my sweetie and old buddy were in on my send.

Laura seconding World of Pain. Photo MJ

"The Southerner" Matt Johns enjoying SWPA ice. Photo LH

Mike led The Awakening with Kenny as the last line of the day.  We hiked out to the cars satisfied as the day was drawing to a close.  With some luck and cold weather we'll get in another weekend of climbing.


  1. Thanks again Tim & Laura for a AWESOME weekend. It's always a pleasure to come up and climb with such good friends, you guy's are the best!

    Listen everyone.......this ice in SWPA is the REAL DEAL. Mad props to my longtime friend Tim Anderson for pushing the standards in beautiful SWPA.

  2. This looks fantastic! Where are these climbs located? Especially day 2!