Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ice Condtions: Various (Feb 3-5)

I just enjoyed three awesome days of guiding with a few regular guests. The previous two years we froze in sub-minus-20 temperatures so perseverance pays off and they were finally rewarded with perfect weather and conditions.

Day 1 (Feb 3), Massey's: An elk with a big rack was on the tracks eating grain so we were forced to flounder in facets to get around it. The first pitch is not as fat as usual but there is still plenty of room for two parties to climb beside each other if working together. I did the steeper left hand start with Ari while Simon took Neil and Tanya up the right side. The walk/scramble off left looks like crap with no trail beat in and bottomless junk so rapping is the way to go. Two full-length 60-metre raps will get you down. Pat and Keith did Guiness Gully at the same time and reported good, plastic ice.

Day2 (Feb 4), Valley of the Birds: All seven of us attacked the Valley of the Birds in the North Ghost. The drive in is now manageable but medium to high clearance is still recommended for the Stump Land detour around the Monster Drift that formed due to the clear-cut. An ice dam bridges the river about half way between Marker 39 parking and the climb so you can skip the awkward side-hilling trail under Sentinel Crag. The ice bridge may not be long for this world with the warm temps. Between three guides with four clients we climbed Yellow Bird, Seagull, Albatross and the Eagle. All are in fine shape with good ice. Only the Eagle sported hooking from previous traffic; all the others were fresh-albeit-plastic ice. The Eagle is a very slender column with a glued-together crack 10 metres up. The hooks and features for feet are welcomed but gentle technique is encouraged. It had full sun by 1:30pm which improved the ice quality (also the nine TR laps helped deepen the hooks).

Day 3 (Feb 5), Weeping Wall: We were surprised to find no one else in the parking when we arrived at 8:30am. Neil and I did left-hand while Simon did right-hand with Keith and Tanya. The third pitch on the left hand sounded detached from the water running behind it. I could feel Neil's swings vibrate in the feet while belaying and he was 40 metres below me! Simon reported the right to be excellent one-hit shit and good stemming. The crux of the right hand is typically better ice becasue the corner faces north so gets less sun messing with it. Pat and Ari did Professors that day and said that a snorkel would have been a good piece of gear to bring. They swam up the first three pitches then left soaked.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Munising Ice Festival

This was my third time attending this event (2002, 2005, 2009) and despite being in the middle of nowhere, it is an awesome grassroots festival. It draws a huge crowd from the nearby major cities of Minneapolis, Detroit and Chicago and everyone is super psyched. 448 people attended from 10 states including Florida and Texas-- plus Canucks from nearby Ontario. The level of enthusiasm for all thing ice is very inspiring. Representing Black Diamond Equipment, I gave my slide show on winter climbing to a packed hall the hall--not even standing room available. I also taught two days of clinics: an intro to ice one day and a woman's clinic the other (Yeah boy, you read correctly). No woman athletes were present so since I had long hair I was the next best thing. Both clinics were successful in that I had first time ice climbers styling vertical pillars with solid technique by the end of each day.
The climbs are located on the south shore of Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Park. Most are short vertical pillars and curtains pouring over sandstone caves and overhangs tucked in the trees. The closest routes are only 10 minutes from town and a 5 minute walk. There is some longer stuff out on the lake cliffs and across the ice on Grand Island. Munising is a snowmobile town in winter but for Superbowl weekend every year the ice climbers take over.