Wow what a weekend. The weather has been so unbelievably nice in South Central. Brian and I plan on climbing Indianhouse Mountain next weekend via a route that we already know people have climbed, but this Saturday he wanted to explore a different route up to the point in front of Indianhouse, via a gully on the West face.
From Falls Creek we followed the trail up for about a mile and then started up the first obvious gully full of snow. In the past I have been a little uncomfortable on snow. Even though I know how to self arrest, there is a certain degree (I'm not sure what that is, maybe 45?) that the slope goes past and I start to feel vulnerable. Like I could start sliding and never stop.
But I felt unusually comfortable this day. Maybe because the slope was not very steep and the going was easy. About half way up we stopped for lunch and put our crampons on after the grade steepened and the snow hardened a bit. We could have made it up without crampons, but I just felt more secure with them.
We continued up the gully seeing what looked like a vertical rock face above us, but we've learned to not turn around until we actually walked right up to something because it can be deceiving. If I would have been able to see the gully we walked up from far away (which I did later) I may not have ever started up.
After a long slog up the snow, we got to a point where the gully split. Two of the routes were way too steep without a rope, but one looked manageable. We headed up the middle towards some alders and suddenly the slope steepened and the snow hardened and I started to become uncomfortable. It did not look promising up above, so I stomped out a platform to sit on while Brian continued on to check it out.
I sat there and thought about how comfortable I am when I'm on a rope. I will climb something that is vertical (or more than vertical) and have no problem hanging from a belay. But take the rope away and up the exposure and I start to get uneasy.
It's not so much the going up part that bothers me, but I like to keep looking back deciding if I would be comfortable coming back down the way I came. I do this because I have climbed myself into a panic situation more than once and it usually happens when I am blindly following Brian up something. It's always more tough to come back down because you are less stable facing away from the slope (unless you are down climbing), you can't see where your feet are going and you have to constantly look down at where you could fall. My wild imagination can make this quite interesting.
I have definitely upped my comfort level on steep slopes since we've moved here. Sometimes I envy the people who grew up in the mountains and seem to have no fear. But then I also greatly value this journey I have taken as an adult becoming increasingly comfortable moving around in the mountains. It's very rewarding to know that something that scared the crap out of me a few years ago, now is completely within my comfort zone.
Brian showed up again about 15 minutes later as I made myself comfortable with where I was. He had discovered a route that might be doable, but in his words, "You wouldn't like it." Which means, without a rope I would panic.
After down climbing the top part, we plunged stepped down the now soft snow and back down the trail. We briefly headed up the trail further to scope out another gully that Brian has had his eye on, but I was bonking and had had enough snow climbing for the day, so we ran back down the trail to the car.
Next weekend, Indianhouse proper!