Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Late Feb ice action in SWPA

Sunday morning and WE were to meet Joel Torretti, Mike Royer and Ian Austin for some SWPA climbing.  Although the WE turned into I, but I'll get to that in a minute.  Ian is a good friend of Josh Hurst who made the trip down from Maine earlier this year to climb.  Josh's trip was fun despite the fact that it was doomed by miserable warm weather and a short, unlucky fall that basically ended his ice season.  Upon Josh's recommendation, Ian decided to hook up with our little SWPA posse to sample the ice while passing through PA from out west.  Saturday was out for me, so Ian hooked up with Joel Torretti and Mike Royer who both drove in from Central PA to work on the Upper Meadow mixed climbing.   Word is that Joel was close to sending the left var.  Currently the finish pillar on the direct route has fallen down, making the finish impossible.  Here are some photos of the crew working the line.

Joel working the project with Ian on belay, Photo by Mike Royer

Ian Austin giving it a go, photo by Mike Royer

Joel getting close to the send, photo by Mike Royer

Like the post started, WE (Laura and I) were to meet the guys on Sunday to get out to some bigger lines in the area, but Saturday Laura caught ill and was in no shape to be climbing on Sunday.  She was seriously bummed out since the steepness is her preference and she had to miss what might've been one of the last days of season.  She's had a great season getting really strong and improving on her technique.  The hard work has paid off as she's been getting many compliments from other climbers about how smooth and effortless she seconds the steepest ice lines.  I hope we can squeeze in another day out since she had to miss the fun this weekend.   Get well soon sweetie, lets go climbing!  I met Joel, Mike and Ian at Valley Dairy in Connellsville.  We made our way to the crag, geared up and set off to the crag.  Mike and I snowshoed in while Joel and Ian skied in.  A foot of more of new snow had fallen overnight.  Parking this week was easier than previous trips here and we wasted no time getting to the climbing.  The climbs looked amazing.
End of Feb. and climbs still look great! Photo Regina Schulte-Ladbeck

Looking up the left wall Beast in center, Madrocket and Double A on left, Photo by Mike Royer 
The new snow erased any ugliness of melting snow and ice.  It looked pretty darned good.   It was decided that Ian and I would pair up for Monsta WI5+ 65m  which had made a very rare appearance and looked climbable.  It was previously top roped about 5 years ago during a fickle season when it formed only half way down the wall, but had yet to be freed.  Joel and Mike teamed up for a go on The Beast WI5+ 60m another rare former that is currently in the best shape in many years.   Since Ian had driven halfway across the country to climb here I let him have the honors of the beautiful line. 

Ian starting up Madrocket, Joel on The Beast, Photo by Regina Schulte-Ladbeck

Joel Torretti is the master of racking big for big lines... photo by Ian Austin

Ian tied in and cruised up through the fat start up to some less than ideal ice in the center portion of the route. At one point there was an amazing bulb of ice that was made for a rest.  You could actually sit down and let go, pretty cool.  He continued up the line to the overlap.  He climbed up under the overlap and placed several good screws in the solid ice against the main rock wall.  He then went to work clearing  the sicles and chopping a window through the curtain to pull the overhang and and establish on the solid ice above.  After several hundred whacks, enough was cleared to pull out onto the ice. Ian rested for a minute at the calf blowing stance, then proceeded to finish the line off. 

Ian reaching the top on Madrocket WI5+, Photo by Mike Royer

He built a  V-thread and put me on belay.  I seconded the incredibly fun line finding the climbing a little easier than expected.  Please don't misunderstand "easier"  Not that it was easy, just easier than what my visual perception of the line convinced my brain.  The climbing was very bold and committing.  Great job by Ian on a magnificent send.  

Through the final overlap, I'm nearing the belay of Madrocket WI5++, Photo Mike Royer

Topping out Ian's new line Madrocket (note the person above my right shoulder for scale) , Photo by Ian Austin

When I reached the bealy, Ian and I reveled in our happiness of such a great climb.  Time to go down. Well I think it took us longer to sort out (untangle) our ropes for the rap than the climb took.  Rats nest #1.  After some work, we got the ropes in order and made our way to the ground.  The new official name of the line dubbed "Monsta" is now Madrocket WI5++.  Joel and Mike had been working hard on The Beast.  I was up for our team.  I was planning on climbing The Beast when Joel and Mike were done, but Ian poked at me to try the line just right of Madrocket.  It appeared a little easier than Madrocket but harder than The Beast.   It was unclimbed and I like unclimbed so I decided to give it a whirl.  We had a sip of coffee and watched the other team for a minute before I started up.  Joel was on lead slowly working his way up the line.  He was not climbing as he normally would.  I could tell he wasn't going  under full power.  He made his way up a little over half way to the crux sections and just didn't have the steam to keep going.  His attempts on the mixed lines the day before got the best of him.  Wisely he backed off and came down to the ground.  Mike went up cleaning Joels screws and lowering off the thread.  Great attempt guys!  Well I was up to try a new line.  I used a similar start as Madrocket but quickly went right after the opening pillar. 

Working up through Double A WI6, Photo by Mike Royer

Last bulge before the final crux on Double A WI6, Photo by Mike Royer

My highpoint of Double-A WI6, Photo by Mike Royer

Moving up through shitty ice, large mushroomed overhangs and barely attached large pillars.  The climbing went smooth up the first 140', but I was starting to feel the pump.  I guess following Ian up the first line, then jumping right onto the 2nd line without a sufficient rest, proved too much for me.  Perched below the final crux pillar, the gear potential looked shotty and I felt Ididn't have what was needed to commit and finish.  Ian said that he'd take a go at it and lowered me to the ground.  I put him on belay and he went up.  In fine style he made his way up through what I had climbed and stood below the crux, resting a moment before proceeding to climb up into the crux.  He worked through slowly placing more screws in the final 40' than the entire lower portion of the climb.  He made it up to the "top" of the climb only to find little ice worth using for an anchor.  None the less he utilized what was there and put me on belay with the intent that when I got near the top I'd build a thread lower down in better ice. 

Ian at the belay of Double-A WI6, Photo by Regina Schulte-Ladbeck

I tied in and worked up to the crux section. 

Just below the final crux. Photo by Ian Austin

Slightly frustrated that I didn't commit and fire the line, I started the moves.  The climbing was steep, but well within my ability.  I could see why Ian was plugging screws often.  The climbing was strenuous and scary.  At one point, I was able to get a hip into a "corner" on my left. This offered a brief no hands rest mid crux.  

Yes the ice here in SWPA is a little steep. Final moves on Double-A. Photo by Ian Austin

After the rest, the  final several moves stayed solid through ice that was less than ideal.  I was a body's length below Ian at the belay.  I clipped into a screw at his feet.  I quickly built a sufficient anchor and transferred onto it.  Ian built what I believe was the most shallow thread I've ever seen.   He passed me a bundle of ropes.  It more resembled a large ball of yarn.  I set to work untangling the mess while he made a short, quick rap down to me at the new solid anchor.  This was rat nest #2 for the day and this one took top honors.  Thanks Ian, I've been slacking in my balled-up rope untangling skills!  This was a great refresher course : )  What an amazing, fun line and experience.  We talked about a name for it and came up with Double-A WI6 (Austin, Anderson) Seemed appropriate since this was our first time climbing together.

Who had more fun? Photo by Ian Austin

While Ian and I were taking on Double A, Joel and Mike decided to try Son of Beast WI5, but backed off due to poor ice.  Mike decided to try The Awakening WI5.  I didn't get to see him climb, but heard that it went very well for him.  Great work and congrats on the send Mike!  Dr. Bob and Regina made an appearance around noonish. Busy in the hole, I didn't get to talk to them.  From what I heard they decided to try The Infinite WI5, but only made part of the route. 

Dr. Bob racking up for The Infinite WI5, Photo by Regina Schulte-Ladbeck

Climber, Professor, Photographer, all around fun girl, Dr. Regina, Schulte-Ladbeck

Tough conditions and stinging snow proved too much and they decided to head back to the Burgh.  Regina has offically thown in the towel.  She said she's ready for warm rock.  I wish I could say the same.  Laura and I wish the season would continue for a few more months!  This has been an incredible season so far.  The end has to be drawing near.  This past weeked was a lot of fun.  Great job and some serious respect goes out to Ian Austin for his efforts here in PA.  If you ever get the chance to climb with him, take it. He's a great guy to share a rope with and we welcome his return to SWPA next season!

The completed new lines, Madrocket WI5 (left) and Double A WI6 (right) photo by Ian Austin

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tim:

    Thanks for leaving such a detailed account. I was wondering what you and Ian were climbing there. I'm glad you showed our visitor a good time!

    As for throwing in the towel...we'll see what the temps are like this weekend. I may go to Kinzua dam on Saturday. I hear there is grade 3 ice there. I think I've only been on that grade once before, at Confluence. Should be easy fun. If back at SCII on Sunday, I may not climb too much to save some energy for Red Rock. Leaving Monday! Temps in the 50s. ROCK!!!