When Chris Guyer and I put up the First Ascent of Gunslinger back in June I thought, wow this can not get any better. Well September ice climbing proved to be just as damn amazing.
September 2 I woke up following my routine of being grumpy as my wife Kelly woke me up to head to the gym, but this morning was different as the car was covered in a layer of frost. For the normal population of people this would make their day even worse but for me it was the first sign of winter. I immediately began looking at the highs and lows in the high peaks. My wife loves this time of year, because early season ice climbing usually just means lots of hiking. I think she actually enjoys the hikes more then she likes the climbing itself. Come to think of it maybe most of partners secretly enjoy the hikes as well, otherwise I’m not sure I know why they continue to join me.
On September 22nd I had found the dark cold corner in the mountains on the Border Wall where Chris Guyer and I had put up Gunslinger in June. It was covered in ice, but still not ready for an ascent.
With plenty of cold temps in the forecast we decided to wait another week. A large cold front with precipitation was going to be settling in over the next week, which I figured would prime the route for an ascent.
The anticipation was killing me so I decided to hike in Friday evening September 27th to see if the ice had built up on the border wall. Sure enough it was looking good.
September 28th Shawn Gregory, Chris Guyer and my wife and I headed into to our first ice climb for the season. Unfortunately for us, the weather had a different plan. With 30-40mph winds and a 3 mile hike above tree line, we were gonna have to earn our first ice of the season.
Thankfully motivation was high for everyone. The conditions were absolutely horrible, but we were psyched to climb some ice even though Chris and I had only taken two months off since the First Ascent of Gunslinger in June.
We found a large boulder to hide from the 40mph blowing snow while we got our gear on. Apparently winter was not going to give us a warm up as the winds got progressively worse. The summer honeymoon was over.
Once we got to the base of the wall we were thankfully sheltered a bit from the winds.
The ice was in super good shape and the feeling of throwing tools quickly became a calming rhythm. The weather continued to get worse and we truly started to think it was January not September. It started to feel like I was climbing up the eye of the storm, as snow and wind tried to push back every forward movement.
The route continued for a full 70m pitch. Above the ice in this photo the route went into some mixed bands of rock and ice. We were all psyched to tick off a First Ascent on our first climb of the season and we certainly earned it as we hiked out in the continued whiteout storm.
On a side note I want to mention I wore the new Rab Strata jacket all day while hiking and climbing and was incredibly impressed with this jackets performance. I wore this jacket in Norway as well, but I truly believe this day put the jacket to the test in the 40mph winds, cold and blowing snow. I was warm all day and didn’t sweat, even when I was stressing out because I only had 6 pieces of gear for a 70m pitch. Yes I am sponsored by Rab but I’m telling you, this jacket is fucking awesome!