Sunday, February 13, 2011

Early Valentine's Day for us

Laura and I wanted to keep with our tradition of Valentine's day ice climbing, but the temps were already up to 45° today and tomorrow is calling for warmer and rain as is the rest of the week.  We decided to make Valentines day come early this year.  We headed out to see if we could get one last day of some big ice lines.  Our intentions were to climb The Beast and possibly a new mixed gear line on the right side of the cliff that we noticed last week.  It follows a fracture line up a blank steep wall for 40' to a flow that continues up another 90' or so to the large Called on Account of Security ledge.   Well we went straight to The Beast to see if the bottom 30' came in enough to get on it.  It actually got worse since last week, but I was willing to investigate.  I started walking towards bottom of the climb to see what I could make happen with the  unconnected pencil pillars, when all of a sudden I hear some rockfall.  5 or 6 large basketball sized boulders were plummeting towards earth in Laura's direction.  I barely had time to yell "RUN" and Laura had already noticed the panic in my eyes.  She took off like a bullet away from the cliff. All I heard was the loud THUD sounds made by the rocks hitting the ground behind us.  I was having flashbacks to a day we had at The Gun club several years ago when the large upper tier collapsed and showered us with an enormous amount of ice, large ice.  I was extremely lucky to walk away with only some serious deep tissue damage and Laura with a huge bruise on her ass.  We could have easily been killed by any number of chunks that came down that day.  I still question how we made it through the shower without being pummeled.  We stood there for a few minutes, debating if this was worth trying.  More debris was falling every minute or so.  I debated alternate starts, but all across the cliff it was raining rockfall.  Not the little scree stuff that falls at the end of season.  We're talking blocks.  The air temperature was rising quick and making things worse.  Since this was our Valentine's Day climb,  we decided to stay a couple a little longer and abandon this wall and try one of the others.  We hiked back up to Central and looked down to the right watching things fall all over.  Our new mixed line was a seam strewn with smaller chunks and blocks that are usually held together by the ice.  It was out of the question as water was now running down the seam assuring us that all the rock in the crack were rendered useless for protection.  We were determined to get our V-day climb in so we just picked the biggest, driest, safest line we could find.  It was so worth it.  I climbed the line enjoying the funky 3D climbing and fresh ice this weeks cold weather formed.  I finished the pitch and built an anchor to bring Laura up.  She was grinning from ear to ear up until the crux.  For that section she had a little more intent look and even called out a rare "watch me".  She pulled through without hanging and finished in great style.  We enjoyed the view from the top for a moment and quickly returned to to the ground to head out before we pushed our luck too far and ruined our V-day climb by one of us getting crushed.  It was still early, so we opted to head to Ohiopyle.

Laura enjoying our Valentine's day climb here in SW PA

The belay offered a nice angle for photos
So much fun climbing ice together, Laura lovin' it!

Smiling through most of it!

My happy girlfriend, the worlds greatest climbing partner.
Happy Valentine's Day
Ohiopyle was interesting to say the least.  We walked to the top of the Upper Meadow area.  To our amazement we didn't see any ropes set up.  I started to walk towards the top of the climbs to peer down.  All of a sudden a tool with a rope attached to it came flying up over the top towards an exposed root.  A guy was tossing the tool towards the root with the intentions of hooking it to assist him through the last several melting out moves.  Crazy bathook antics for sure!
You can see the tool laying on the root ahead of my left foot.
We watched for a few minutes before deciding to leave before the sky started falling!   All in all it was a great day and we fulfilled our Valentine's day climbing! (a day early)


  1. Wait a minute -- you experienced a random flying ice tool and you buried this information way at the bottom? I'm kidding... I'm kidding.

    Happy Valentine's Day to you and Laura, Tim.


    (owner of the decomposing boot you photographed at Irishtown this past December.)

  2. Time to put away the ice tools and come to the Red. :)