then there will be weather trouble...
Initial plan was to do All Along the Watchtower, but Chris pointed out in the past week that a more sensible plan for me was to do the 7th Rifle if left with no partner. The group was on the way out when I was walking up and the news was that Katherine and Chris A. had tried the 7th Rifle and found the line "...just not a very good line..." so they turned around after 3 pitches, and they were so right to do so (read bellow). So Chris retreated his suggestion and agreed that All Along the Watchtower would after all be the better choice. Now I was reading on 7th Rifle, not AAW, so I had to make some gear and mind adjustments... insted of roped free climbing up to 5.10 and one pitch of aid on the Rifle I was looking at 500m of free and then who knows. I was not going to go for a free ascent of any of the 11+ pitches, that was sure, but will I be able to free sections or will I have to aid everything on the headwall?
Afternoon saw me rolling in the Apple Bee. Greeted as a weekend regular it was like coming to "my" cabin. Everybody was in a good mood. Mine however was darkening as it was taking me way longer to pack than expected. The amount of gear I was going to slog into East creek was a bit much for my liking, but there was no way around it. I only got into East Creek just after sunset time, so by the time I was half way up the scrambling part of Becky-Chouinard I needed a headlamp. A stream bellow the Central Howser Tower provided necssary water and I settled in at the Howser bivi boulder.
Sleep di not come easily. Rock fall every hour or so, plu sthe effect of daytime ColdTylenol that I took three times that day, the last one at 6pm, kept me awake for much longer than I would have wanted.
Morning descent into to the base was quick with excellent anchors. The Rifle was shooting indeed. I was glad than none of us was in there. I circled way on the left around the scree/snowfield to the base of the AAW, tanked on water (2.75 l) and had a good time climbing the first two 60m pitches. Route finding issues that followed nearly caused a domino effect which could have forced me to turn around. It did slow me down explicitly on the first day, making only pitch 6 my bivi spot. It also slowed me down for two more drastic resons: firstly, I had to leave behind 2 out of four medium sized nuts, and I slept in the chimney with no snow or water. So the first time with no water for 16 hours through the night was curable at the "snow" ledges the next day. No snow, but there was a trickle :) Big dinner at noon, soop, and lots of drink moved my tummy at an allarming speed :( but we will not talk about that. Second day was now going to be an "easy" day since I only had to get to pitch 13 bivi. At some point, two right facing corners both looked equally uninviting :( I climbed both of them... and lost another two medium sized nuts. I was afraid that I was loosing the so called "control", which caused additional forgetfulness while cleaning pitches and somwhere up there I left a green and blue (0.3) Camelots. "Dropping" in total 5 medium sized pieces, 4 nuts and one cam, was now becoming a problem, of which extent I was not aware until I the next day.
Flat bivy, no snow :( I arrived with 2 litres of water and used only one litre for evening soup and morning granola. thirsty already I climbed the easy corner over some ledges to the base of the big corner. Sunday 7:30am reality check: The corner looked like a ropestretcher pitch, but I knew it was 600 feet long to the crux double overhang, then more of the same all eating medium sized nuts (!); 1 litre of water, no other water to the top, potential hanging bivi. Weather was holding strong, no cirus clouds yet :) Afternoon build ups were not alarming and the temperature differentials were not quite sufficient to guarantee storms, of course you never know... Sound of the chopper woke me up, CMH was ferrying clients to the alpine medow S-SW from the Towers. Deep down I knew I will be going on, but I had to count the cards, and they did not look good - most likely I will need two more days of climbing with 1 litre of water total, and will have to exercise a lot of backcleaning in order to climb the corner due to the loss of the medium size gear. I got through the first overhanging part of the crux and missreading the old topo put a belay in there. I should have juged up to it and had a protected bivi, but for some reason I was not thinking about rockfall until I was packed for the night. I will blame that on dehydration. Aiding the crux was not hard and the crack above it was a good time, again twice as long as it appeared :) I toped out in the afternoon heat and was getting really thursty. Two pitches up I belayed in a small alcove, and while in a hurry put a biner in my mouth. Ittasted like water! I thought I was loosing it until I noticed a wet patch of sand at the bottom of the alcove. that was snow yesterday! So I still had hope to find some snow on this west facing ridge before the top. There was no intention for me to do the descent in the afternoon hours. The glacier bellow the raps is east facing and heated up early in the morning, so no place to roam around on your own in the afternoon. The plan was to stop as soon as I find enough snow. I did, just before the "midpoint" bivi on the ridge. There was flat spots 20m away so I cooked at the snowpatch and then settled in for the last bivi, the windiest and coldest one. On all of them I was cold due to the Emperor Penguin being simpl not enough wind resistant, so a 3/4 VB bag was needed. Legs in the pack to my knees, down jacked covered with my precip jacket, my feet were always warm, but my thighs were loosing a lot of heat, and by 3 in the morning I was shivering every night...
Morning saw me get up in the dark and I was climbing by the dusk time. The sound of a chopper draw my attention and I thought they were scanning the west face for me (*). I gave them a thumb up and continued climbing to make sure that they knew I was OK. Something got "lost in the translation" between me, the couple that relayed the message, and the custodian, so they actually did a check up flight a day early. This might have been a consequence of the rescue executed earlier in the morning when two Russian climbers were stranded due to a broken ankle on Snowpatch Spire. I am very greatfull to all who was involved for thinking of me...
* Only after talking with Marc Piche a week after the ascent I realised that what the chopper was looking at the bottom of the face was two other soloists (!) lower down on the same face. I say we need to talk more and put in some collective effort :)
Snowpatch Spire: Sunshine Crack
(ten years later after we climbed it with Guy :)
Back for more, this time again alone - Ken was going to Wyoming for 2 days and he calls me from Colorado where his work kept him for the next ten days...
Bugaboo Corner, Banshee, and Sunshine Crack on the north wall of Snowpatch spire.
Against the light and far away one can see the limitations of a small 110mm lens. Photo was taken from the base of the fourth pitch on Becky-Chouinard route, South Howser Tower.
On the feared OW on the "second" pitch of Bugaboo Corner shared by Sunshine Crack and Banshee (Ken Glover photo).
which was a mighty unprotectable outing.
The first squeeze :) Ken Glover photo)
Ken was "desperate" to do Becky-Chouinard, which I have done before, was keen again, but the day seem to be unusually cold. I have been cold on BC on a warm day, so I more or less refused to go. His enthusiasm evaporated. We opted for a warmer Snowpatch route on snowpatch Spire. See yourself how warm it was...
It was time for the Bugs again. Kelly and Katy, friends from Vancouver, were going in there and it would be good to see them again. I was suppose to leave Friday afternoon but joined Ken on a Calgary drive to get a new digi camera. Ken's work did not allow him to go to the Bugs, so I was on my own. Facing a past midnight arrival to the trail head I gave up for the evening and went to bed. Morning saw me a lot more enthusiastic and driving to the Bugs via Hwy 95/93 was very scenic. Started hiking at noon - not a good idea due to heat. At six, with K&K nowhere in site at Apple Bee, I headed up toward Bugaboo Spire and climbed the Kain route. Summit at sunset, can not complain... Sunday morning start was slow, but I did spot Katy's figure out there on the other side of a sun drenched camp. All three of us kept chatting and got ready in a "hurry" for an alpine start at a crack of noon :) They were going to do Sunshine Crack and I was keen on Brenta-Northpost Spire traverse. Great views all the way and two half an hour hail storms up on the ridge that materialized from the cumulus world around me. Hiding in the slots between ridge blocks was the time to spent munching.
The plan was to go back the same way, but when on the summit of Northpost something was not right with the idea of going back along the ridge. So I dropped down towards alluring colour of Cobalt Lake. Three small passes bar the way back to the camp. While on top of the first one I saw a mass of pitch black clouds in the direction of Bugaboo Spire. I had about 10 minutes to find a shelter under a big boulder. Lightening and accompanying thunder were coming closer and closer. After I thought things should calm down I started counting the seconds, six. Later the time was still getting shorter, so the storm is still on the way :) Lots of noise wind, and flashes. I made myself comfortable and had a snooze. When the rain stopped for a while I continued the hike, but it started again in about 20 minutes. This time with less wind and the feel of it going all night. I packed my wet stuff hanging in the camp and found shelter in the Hut. 10 pm, dark, and raining was not the best incentive to do the hike down to the car, with the prospect of driving for three more hours, so I had a good dinner and went to "bed" at midnight. In the morning I woke up in the company of Alpine Club Marmot Women's camp :) Thanks for that half a portion of the Roasted Red Pepper, Cheese, Egg Breakfast Wrap :) I thought you guys were carrying all that food in there yourself! But on the way out I met custodian sweating under a pile of food for the "Marmot Women".
Catching up with work on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday was fun, I do like my work, but mighty tiring, so my Tuesday/Thursday evening dance classes went from bad to worse :(
Pigeon Spire (3156m): West Ridge