Friday, November 26, 2010

Back on the Ice in Nabesna!

Friday morning Brian and I headed out to Nabesna for the weekend to ice climb. It's very rare that I get him to agree to ice climbing. While he loves exploring mountains he dislikes all of the gear setup and standing around that ice climbing involves.

But he agreed because I told him about this climb called the Corridor where we could free solo a bunch of ice steps while making our way up a narrow canyon only roping up on the longer pitches. The ice is moderate and I thought it would be a perfect lead for me since I haven't led ice in over a year.

We arrived Friday evening to the sun already set at 5pm. We stayed in a cozy cabin at the Sportmens Paradise Lodge, drank wine, ate macaroni and cheese and sorted our gear for the climb in the morning.

We headed out around 10 am. We are not into the alpine start, although we recognize that we might accomplish much more if we could wake up early. We parked at the Jack Creek pullout and headed over the tundra up towards the gully.

It was unseasonably warm, especially for Nabesna. At this time of year I expected it to be between 0 and 10 degrees. And after reading that earlier in the week it got down to 40 below with the windchill I was a bit nervous. But Brian's thermometer read 24 degrees. Perfect ice climbing temperature.

Eventually we were in the gully proper and started to free climb a few small steps.

We passed Wing and a Prayer, a grade V climb which Jayme, Carlene and I attempted and failed to climb a few years ago. It was March and the snow was deep. It had taken us three hours to just get to the gully after breaking trail with our snowshoes. We climbed the two smaller steps below the main pillar. I had no intention of leading it, but Jayme was game to try. She started up, got about a quarter of the way, and said nope. We had already been out five hours and it was getting dark so we retreated.

Wing and a Prayer

But I noted the alternate route "The Corridor", which Jayme said was more moderate, and knew I would be back to climb it.

Finally two years later I was back to climb it. I have to admit I was nervous to lead, considering I hadn't even swung an ice tool yet this season and only climbed three times last year. I pictured my first swing bouncing wildly and that I wouldn't have the strength in the my forearms to hold on, almost like the feeling you have the first time you swing a tool with your left hand.

The view back down the canyon

Roping up for the Corridor

But it turns out it's just like riding a bike. While I did feel a little out of shape, I felt like I got back into the groove of placing screws and building anchors pretty quickly. This climb is similar to Kid's Corner in Caribou Creek, where you keep discovering another fun pitch just around the corner.

I even had someone ask why we were going all the way to Nabesna to climb something similar to what we could climb closer to town, and I thought well if you have to ask that question then you don't really understand why people ice climb. I'm not out there to get laps in on really hard climbs. While it's nice to climb really difficult routes sometimes to see how far you can take it, for the most part I love to climb because I want to explore new areas that I'd never be able to get to without crampons and ice tools. And getting far away from town is not a bad thing.

The fact that I got to do this all with Brian made it that much more fun. I was worried about him having a good time. I'd like him to go with me on future trips, so it was important that everything went well. We have such different levels of comfort in the mountains. He is completely comfortable scrambling unroped on exposed ridges, but admitted that he is not as comfortable on a rope. I've been known to cry unroped while clinging on a moderately exposed slope and have even had a panic attack or two. On the rope I feel much more comfortable.

We picked a turn around time of 3 pm and it came up so quickly that we didn't get to go all the way to the to. But we put in a good solid day out. By the time we got our act together with all the rappelling it was dark and we only had one headlamp. We ended up hiking out in the dark.

 Brian won an entire turkey dinner at work, so we brought it up to the cabin and cooked up a big feast that night.
Back at the cabin, tired and happy.

1 comment:

Sherrie Soltis said...

I love that route! The other one on the mountain to the left is pretty fabulous too! Looks like a fun time!