Off Season High Mountain Water

At first, ice climbing was primarily a summer alpine sport, with occasional winter forays into the high places, Then climbers began tackling low-altitude waterfalls, which are frozen only in winter. In the high mountains, however, spring and autumn conditions and temperatures give rise to a hybrid type of climb: frozen drips, flows, runnels, and chimneys of water ice. Thus ice climbing has become a year-round sport for its most ardent devotees. Actually, some of the best climbs of the 1970s, such as the Super Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul and Slipstream in Canada, fall into this Category.

In the early-to-mid-1980s, certain people began to really seek these off-season opportunities. High on Mont Blanc many great routes were discovered by Patrick. Gabarrou, jean-Marc Boivin, Christophe Profit, and others. Climbs such as Cascade de Notre Dame (V, Wl5?) and the Hypercouloir (V, W15+?)— ribbons of live water ice rising for thousands of feet between granite pillars—are prime examples of the genre. The Alps have seen hundreds more climbs like these since the mid-1980s.

Luckily, off-season ice is available in all the high, snowy mountains of the world, not just the Alps. In

Grand Teton Ice Climbing

Wyoming, the Teton range offers good off-season ice climbing, particularly on the Northeast Face of the Grand Teton. Here, in 1979, Charlie Fowler and I climbed the Route Canal (IV, WI5+), and Steve Shea soloed Sheas Chute (IV, WI5) in 1980. One of the finest examples of the genre I can think of, mixing high-standard waterfall ice climbing difficulties in a high-mountain environment, is a route called Striving for the Moon (VI, WI5-6) on Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies. It was first climbed in 1993 by Ward Robinson and Barry Blanchard, two of the worlds greatest alpinists.

A* Mixed Up

The Scots virtually invented the sport of mixed rock and ice climbing, and they have continued to explore its possibilities. On Ben Nevis, in Glencoe, on Lochnagar, on Shelter Stone Crag, and in the corries of the Northwest Highlands, climbers such as A1 Rouse, Rab Carrington, Alan Taylor, Murray Hamilton, Ken Spence, Rab Anderson, Mick Fowler, Rob Milne, and too many others to name have elevated the practice into new levels of technique, strength, and boldness. Hundreds of tricky, all-absorbing climbs have been made. Tilt, Central Grooves, and Inclination on Stob Coire nan Lochan, and Deep Throat, Migrant, and Fallout Corner in the Cairngorms all offer an M6-7 experience intense enough to keep the most jaded climber awake, struggling to fit body and mind to the contours of iced-up rock.

In Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, the intricacies of mixed climbing have attracted a hardcore following. Duncan Ferguson has been active in Colorado since the mid-1970s, establishing ephemeral, unprotected thin-ice desperates (up to M6)

Top: Duncan Ferguson climbing off-season ke on Hie North Face off HaNets Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (Photo: Jeff Lowe) Bottom. The author making the first ascent of the Teriebel Traverse, Vail, Colorado—a modem mixed route, tools on rock, hands on ke (M6-7) (Photo: Dan Lemon)

Images Charlie Ebel Colorado

in Rocky Mountain National Park on Mount Meeker, Longs Peak, Hallets Peak, and others. Mark Wilford, Charlie Fowler, and 1 did the classic iced-chimney, Birdbrain Boulevard (IV, M6), in 1985, while Alex Lowe, Greg Davis, and Mike Bearzi pushed the top technical levels up a notch or two on climbs like Hot Doggies (M7, Lowe), Prophet on a Stick (WI7, Lowe), Womb with a View (M7, Davis,/ Bearzi), and Secret Probation (M7r Davis), The hardest of all the technical problems, Octopussy (M8), though a very short 130 feet, puts mixed rock and ice climbing on the same level of athleticism as modern sport rock climbing. I accomplished this test piece in a magic moment at winter's end 1994, inspired by unusual fitness and the quiet confidence and support of my belayer and wife-to-be, Teri Ebel.

The mixed-climbing renaissance is also in full swing today in the Canadian Rockies, One of the birthplaces of frozen waterfall climbing, the "Alps of Canada" are home to some of the most difficult pure ice climbs in the world- The futuristic Terminator (IV, A!ó+) on Mount Rundle was climbed by Cali-fornians Jay Smith and Craig Reason in ¡985. The double overhanging candlestick of Fearful Symmetry (W16 + ), climbed by Bruce Hendricks and Joe Josephson in 1992, is equivalent to France's La Dame du Lac (W16+)—the prettiest ice pillar 1 have ever seen, climbed by Thierry Renault in 1992—or the Fang (WI6 + ) in Colorado, when climbed in the thin conditions of its first ascent made by Alex Lowe in 1981

But the push onto ever-thinner ice really began in the winter of 1987 when Jeff Marshall and Larry Ostrander climbed the 700-foot Riptide (M7?) on Mount Patterson, described by Marshall as a "five-pitch horror." Then, in 1991, Troy Kirwan and Joe Buzowski climbed Mixed Master (IV, Wl4, M<5?), a seven-pitch, fully mixed route that finishes with what has been described by Joe Josephson as a "ten-inch-wide vertical ice seam." In 1992, shortly after making the first ascent of Fearful Symmetry,

Hendricks went on to solo the first ascent of Blessed Rage (IV, Wf6, M6?), an impressive 650-foot climb above Emerald Lake near Field, Hendricks turned the hat trick when, in 1993, he and Josephson established the aptly named Sea of Vapors (IV, W17 + ?) on Mount Rundle, a fleeting and ethereal 500-foot swipe of frozen mist close to the Terminator. The Terminator itself, a four-pitch ice dagger renowned for its purity of line and on prominent display above the town of Banff, seldom touches down, It was climbed in this "unformed" state by Serge Angellucci, Jeff Everett, and Karl Nagy in 1993. Their variation, which is called T2 (fV, WI6 + , M7, A2?}, takes a mixed start leading to the upper ice fang, and presents one of the most compelling technical challenges to be found anywhere.

In the Alpine countries, mixed climbing has always been a part of the high-mountain game. On some of the ice climbs that have already been mentioned (such as the Super Couloir Direct on Mont Blanc du Tacul and the Maclntyre/Colton on the Grandes Jorasses), mixed ground actually presents the greatest difficulties. In the early 1990s, the American Marc Twight pushed hard on several new routes, such as Beyond Good and Evil (V, M6, A3?), a saber slash on the North Face of Pèlerins, which he climbed in 1992 with Englishman Andy Parkin. But some of these routes have involved considerable aid climbing, in contrast to the free ethos that prevails in Scotland and Colorado. In the Stubai region of Austria, however, Andi Orgler and others have established a number of the highest-caliber mixed rock and water ice routes on some of the lower outcrop-pings. The major activities of this sort in Austria have taken place since the mid-1980s and include pure ice climbs like Andi's Hangender Garten (III, W!6).

In France and Italy the most difficult new ice routes are mixed. Climbs such as Visa pour l'Amérique (IV, W16}, by François Damilano, Godefroy Perroux, and Philippe Pibarot, were made on very thin, evanescent ice as early as 1987, setting the stage for more recent climbs of even greater difficulty. The Tête de Gramusat in the Val de Freissin-ières harbors a number of fine pure ice lines of world-class quality on its steeply banded, 1,400-foot cliffs, and the route Blind Faith (V, WI6+, A2), first climbed by Thierry Renault and me in January of 1992, has an eighteen-foot roof on the fourth pitch, where Renault used three pitons for aid (it will go free at M7+ or 8). The overall route is one of the most exciting I have done. La Lyre (V, WI7+), the long, 1,800-foot route in the Haute Savoie region, also climbed in January of 1992 by Renault, Wilfried Colonna, and Denis Condevaux, has a crux overhanging rock slab sparsely stuccoed with small blobs and drips of ice. The talented Renault says La Lyre was one of the most intense climbing experiences of his long and varied career.

It seems that 1992 was a good year for French ice in general, and for Renault in particular In January he also opened the shorter 300-foot route LAvcmurc C'est LAventure in the Haute Maurienne, after thrilling a watching crowd when a small icicle he had been hugging with his legs broke at the overhanging crux just as he planted one tool in the ice above. Struggling through a series of still-difficult, unprotected moves, Renault gave this climb a rating of 7+, the highest in France. The only other climb of this difficulty is Nuit Blanche on l'Argentière Glacier in the Mont Blanc region, first ascended by English climber Stevie Haston and Frenchman Patrick Naudin in January 1994,

The sport of ice climbing has come a long way, particularly since the introduction of curved picks (classic and reverse), rigid Crampons, and reliable tee screws, In the high mountains of the Alps, Andes, Canadian Rockies, Alaska, New Zealand, the

Caucasus, and elsewhere, the ascent of alpine ice faces, gullies, couloirs, and ice cliffs has become more than just a pastime for a small group from the lunatic fringe. And more aggressive adventurers have sought the wispy dribbles, smears, flows, runnels, and chimneys of seasonal ice that appear each year. Waterfall specialists, assisted by improved revcrse-curved picks and curved shafts on their ice axes, Snarg drive-in screw-out tube screws, and, more recently, extremely sharp ice screws that are easy to place with one hand, monopoint crampons for water ice and mixed climbing, improved fabrics and clothing design, and greater familiarity with the techniques and demands of the medium, have progressed to the point where it took a single day for Randy Racliff and Marc Twight to accomplish the first climb of the dangerous eleven-pitch Reality Bath (V, W16?) in the Canadian Rockies in 1988 And a climb like La Pomme d'Or in Quebec, which required two days on its first ascent in 1980, was soloed in 1989 in two hours via a harder direct variation by Guy Lacelle

Today there are probably a hundred climbers of Guy Lacelle's caliber around the world, and many thousands of men and women who are expert on ice. It is impossible to keep current with all the new routes that are being opened and all the new climbers who are flocking to the sport, but they are everywhere out in the ice world, motivated like no others to find a way to combat global warming!

There is still plenty of pioneering left to do. Grab your tools and go find the adventure you want The ultimate ice climb remains to be done. It might be found in May on the East Face of the Moose's Tooth in Alaska, or in winter on the North Face of Latok [ in Pakistan. Perhaps 1 will see you there]

Mooses Tooth Winter

TW oMthof enjoyé IIm WMtbtf on tke saaait ol the Groad Telo«, Wyomi«^ öfter making the first winter ascent ol the Mock ko Cœloir/Wesl Face «H^ioolioo. Febroocy 1972 (fbth Ctct9* low M)

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