Friday, February 14, 2014

Cody: Broken Hearts on Valentines Day.

Broken Hearts, South Fork of the Shoshone, Pitch 6, WI6

Jack solos pitch 1.
Pitch 3.
Hanson, Jack, Niels and I legged it to Cody for fifth block break.  It's been a good season there, and nearly everywhere else.  Avalanche danger was looking to be through the roof after a storm cycle and warm weather. We figured we would roll the dice on some moderate gulleys.  Jokes, instead we decided to look for great protected ice lines in one of the wildest spots in the lower 48. 
   The South Fork of the Shoshone is a unique canyon with intricate and difficult terrain on both sides.  The bottom of the canyon is low, 6000ft, and sees rain sometimes even in the middle of winter.  On both sides, high peaks rise over a mile above the valley, and huge snow bowls feed countless threads of ice that drop to the floor.
   The storm cycle limited what we could do greatly.  On the way up we spent the night in Lander and cooked a huge breakfast with my brother. We got on Stringer upon arrival, where Jack and I soloed together.  Even during the South Fork Ice Fest, the canyon was less crowded than any one of our zoo-style front range ice crags.  The ice fest traffic was concentrated on shorter routes with easy approaches, so we knew we would still have alot of space to ourselves in which to get scared.

Leading Pitch 5, aka My Only Valentine WI5
The next day we got on Broken Hearts, a 7 pitch system of pillars on the sunny side of the canyon.  I heard that pitches 5 and 6 would be in, and was excited to push myself a bit.  Really we were just a bunch of sexually frustrated outsiders trying to reconcile our choice of activities on Valentine's day.

 ie. we're here because we're not all there.
    In a group of 4, Jack and I soloed the first two pitches while Niels and Hanson climbed as a pair behind.  Jack took pitch 3, the first real pillar of the route.  We burned alot of candles postholing up the gulley to the buisness pitches.  In and of itself, the first 4 pitches make a fantastic moderate outing, but we had dispatched them by mid-morning.
   We arrived in the first of the upper amphitheaters.  Pitch 5, aka. My Only Valentine was formed well as a large curtain of vertical, featured ice.  It was dripping and nearly every placement was an inspiring one-swing-stick.
   The Carotid Artery is a pillar on the left side of the wall.  It appeared to have formed and broken off.  As a mixed climb, it is both chossy and incredibly difficult, with the only protection at it's M7 crux being a couple of pins, placed on lead by Alex Lowe.
   As I was finishing up the pitch a certain professional climber showed up chainsmoking cigarettes with some friends in tow.  While I was slowly enjoying the last few sticks in great green ice, he apparently started up the mixed version of Carotid, then backed off it.  A few minutes later he tried the pencilesque and partially formed right variation to My Only Valentine.  He backed off that too.  Meanwhile, Jack started following me up the pitch. Finally this guy relented and climbed the curtain as I had, and as a normal human being would do. 

In the second ampitheater, we found the sixth pitch in good condition.  I started up it with a couple of hours of daylight.  I burned a good chunk of that by delaying complete commitment at the top of the spray cone.  I was looking at about 65 feet of relentless vertical and slightly overhanging fragile ice.  There was no 'gunning it', instead I tiptoed up the pillar slowly, making every stick count.  I was undoubtedly overdriving the tools, but it felt good to be solid.  Further up, I stemmed across to the rock for a rest and found myself face to face with an open fracture line.  It was getting dark, and quickly getting colder.  I heard a deep, resonating pop, followed by a sickening groan, and a pop again.  The pillar was settling.  I childishly forced some sticks above the fracture line, as if it would matter.  My heart was racing.
   Nothing happened.  I was being soft, I got control of my mind quickly. With a burning but sustainable pump, I kept stemming it out, kept resting.  The clicks and pops were coming at regular intervals, and then they stopped.  Once I set off again into the vertical, I placed my last screw well above the fracture line and committed to the final 30 feet of steep ice. The top section was still difficult, but it was well bonded to the wall behind.
   I overprotected the bottom and misjudged the height of the pitch, bringing 7 screws for 110 feet of pillar.  It felt good to be completely reliant on my points and movement.  Bringing less protection certainly made it a less strenuous lead, and I found a deep sense of calm and contentment as I pulled the last bulge.  I felt confident at every moment, save for a short lapse in my trust in the pillar's integrity.  Realistically, though much skinnier, it looked about as solid as the Fang, and the expansion fracture was smaller and better healed.
   When I looked at my hands, they were dripping with blood, seeping through my gloves.  I was so focused that I hadn't noticed my smashed knuckles through my thin gloves. It was dark, and I bounced my voice off the far side of the amphitheater signaling to Jack that I was off.
   The seventh pitch apparently hasn't come in for over 10 years, and unfortunately we didn't get a good look at it.  When it's in, it features a ledge a mid height with a steep thread of ice above and below. It is likely of similar difficulty to the 6th pitch, but much more fragile. When I rapped down from the tree at the top, I was only halfway down the spray cone with a 70 meter rope and had to come off rappel on one end and downclimb by headlamp, pulling the rope through the anchor with my bodyweight.  We descended into the dark and hit the bars in Cody.
Leading pitch 6.

This was the aftermath for my hands.  I like the dexterity of dry-tooling gloves,
but the ice did a number on me.
Weather got alot worse, with 45 degree temps and sleet throughout the valley.  We checked out Welcome Wagon, WI4/5, but found it sunbaked, melting, and rotten.  It was too much for either Hanson or I to lead, so we called it a trip and hoofed it back to Lander, enjoying a nice evening with my family.
   Upon return to CC I was greeted with disciplinary action regarding a recent incident involving our stove, a coffee pot, a keg shell, 'theft', and my cat.  Our friend left the stove on and set off the fire alarm last week while we were all in class, and firemen just happened to be conducting a drill next door.  They broke into our apartment, 'saved the day' by turning the stove off, and then proceeded to report all our violations of code.  The 'theft' amounted to borrowing a trashcan from downstairs, but it is going on our records.  The administration instructed me to 'get rid of my cat'.   We'll see where that goes in the next couple of weeks, and meanwhile, my cat is in hiding.

Hanson, Niels, and Jack approaching Welcome Wagon. The Illest of block breaks. 

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