Day 3 “Mean Streak”

For the past 15 years, each day as I drove up the valley in October and November, my attention was always drawn toward what I like to call “The Lottery Wall.” This wall houses some of the South Fork Valley’s finest routes, including one that has been on my radar for many years. Todd Cozzens told me the story of Alex Lowe tip-toeing up what Todd thought was an impossible line. That story has stuck with me like a fairytale ever since. Todd had stashed a bunch of bolts at the base thinking it was the only way to safely climb the 125m route. Alex decided to go for it without bolts and placed pins to protect the transition onto the hanging pillars. His first ascent of “Mean Streak” still remains one of the most difficult leads in mixed climbing history. Since their ascent in the 93/94 season, the route has been dormant for the most part. Todd and John Wasson didn’t have a camera that day to capture the brilliant moments, so I can only guess what the route must have looked like. I can remember ice forming on the route only twice in the past 15 years, but nothing anywhere close to being climbable, even for Alex.

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More moisture has fallen in the Valley this Fall than I have ever seen and temperatures have been prime for the Lottery Wall routes. I had high hopes for “Mean Streak” to show itself once more. On November 8th, the fairytale became a reality for me when I was able to tick off one of the last Alex Lowe routes that remained on my Bucket List.

Stephen Berwanger heading up the first pitch

Stephen Berwanger, heading up the first pitch.

Thankfully for Stephen Berwagner, Tanner Callender and me, “Mean Streak” was in fat and there would be no hammering pins or dry tooling on kitty litter rock to wrestle onto free-hanging pillars.

Stephen Berwanger listening to the drum sound as he throws each tool up the initial curtain

Stephen Berwanger, listening to the drum sound as he throws each tool up the initial curtain.

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Stevo in the steeps of the airy pillar

Stevo, in the steeps of the airy pillar.

When Alex did the FA, he had to dry tool up the rock and step onto this pillar because it wasn’t touching. He pounded some pins into a small seam behind the pillar. As I climbed up the pillar, I could see where he probably placed the pins and I thought, ” You have gotta be kidding me.” Alex was on another level.

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Stevo, almost to the top of the first pitch and a nice little belay cave.

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It was finally my turn. The second pitch was one of the most amazing pitches I have ever climbed. I will say, I completely underestimated this pitch’s length and steepness. It was about 65m to the first belay and another 60m to the top.

Aaron Mulkey stepping into the ice leading to sky

Aaron Mulkey, stepping into the ice leading to the sky.

Looking up, this pitch seems to never end and feels like you’re just climbing into the sky.

Aaron Mulkey making the fairytale a reality

Aaron Mulkey, making the fairytale a reality.

 

Aaron Mulkey making it rain ice on the belay with nowhere to run

Aaron Mulkey, making it rain ice on the belay with nowhere to run.

This vertical curtain of ice leads to a pillar which then leads to the top. The route stays this width, or narrower, for the entire 60m of climbing.

Yeah we were pretty psyched!

Yeah, we were pretty psyched!

I feel extremely lucky to have gotten the second ascent of “Mean Streak” and I am even more thankful that Alex made it so much easier for us to follow in his footsteps. There is no doubt in my mind that no one will ever repeat the route in the style and condition in which Alex climbed it. I can only hope that many others can climb the route while it’s in and get the same extraordinary experience and high that I’m sure is making Alex smile down upon us.


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