Sunday, October 11, 2009

No. 66 - Al West IdahoSummits Fall 2009 Outing.

This is Al West Peak (snowy dome in the center). It was the Plan B trip when Plan A, Pyramid Peak in the Pioneers, became inaccessible with 2 ft of snow on the road.

(Click any photo for a larger picture.)

Nine folks from the site made the trip: John, Pat, Dave, Eric, Michael, Aaron, Steve, IdahoSummits site creator-Dan, and me. I've wanted to meet these guys for a long time. I read the board a lot a post a little, and they've been very helpful with their wealth of Idaho mountain knowledge and climbing experience. I've been amazed and inspired by their accomplishments and really thought I might be overstepping my abilities by joining them. Finally, I decided that there was nothing to lose. I would get to meet everyone, and if everything went well, then I would meet everyone and successfully summit. I went over Friday evening to camp and spent a fun night listening to stories, finding out what folk did for a living, hearing about their families, discussing gear, eating, drinking and getting ready for the day ahead.

The next morning Aaron and Michael pulled in and we got underway at 8:00 a.m. in 15 degrees. We spent about an hour or so navigating back and forth lower Rock Creek canyon, the creek itself, and a lot of brush. It was shady and cold and we couldn't wait to get into the sun.

We came out to an opening and saw a better view of the ridges and walls between us and the summit. Well, it was at this point where we decided to break into two groups. One group would do the planned route (John, Dan, Michael, Steve and me) and the other (Pat, Dave, Aaron, Eric) would break new ground.
My group continued on, John in the lead, side-hilling in the snow until we reached the sunshine and a steep gully with perfect snow for kick stepping (sorry the video is in sepia, an effect I didn't purposely choose...cold fingers and little slippery buttons aren't a good match). We continued up the gully and took a break in the trees from what had become a pretty strong, cold steady wind. After a quick break, Michael took off ahead to the rocky crux ridge.

Dan and I followed a few minutes later, and Steve and John started up afterward. It turned out it wasn't going to be Steve's day. He and I were both plagued by frozen camelbacks, but I had put mine down the front of my shirt for most the way and got a little cooperation out of it. With not enough energy to safely summit, Steve posed for a photo on his personal summit on the higher snowfield and then headed down on his own.

John quickly caught up with Dan and reached me as I was starting into the crux moves.

John lead through the crux, and the catwalk, and took these great photos.

After the crux section we were faced with a long open face ascent. Michael was way ahead of all of us (see the red circle on the photo), John ahead of me, and Dan a few minutes behind me. The wind seemed to increase as each of us summitted, in turn, and solo.

I touched the cairn and took my gloves off to take a summit panorama with my camera and also my Ipod. I couldn't even get the Ipod video to turn off because it was so cold the buttons weren't responding, which was the same problem I had with the camera. I literally "listened" for the camera click and then rotated and took another photo. I was holding on to both the camera and the Ipod tightly because of the wind. Excuse the fingers...(two improvements Apple, the placement of the lens and an attachment for an optional lanyard)...Turn the video off after 40 seconds...I'm fighting to turn it off for the rest of the time.

My Splattski shot for posterity with Borah's North Face in the background. As quick as I was in taking the photos and the video, I felt the beginning of the unmistakable numbing and loss of feeling that accompanies initial frostbite, unlike I've experienced before. I got my gloves on, did some quick windmills and headed down as quick as I could, passing Dan on his way up.

My hands warmed by the time I meet John who was seated on some rocks to wait for Dan. So I headed off to meet them down lower. The snow was great for plunge stepping and the descent was quick. With Michael having long gone, the three of us regrouped at the crux (this photo is of the other side of the catwalk to show that it dropped off on both sides). John lead. We retraced our steps and, thanks to Michael, had tracks for a slightly better down climb on the very lower end of the crux than what we had on the way up.

When we reached the snow fields it was too soft for glissading. Even the gully was a no-go, though lower down Dan took advantage of a little slide he found. We retraced our steps until we were again down into the canyon. At that point, John took off and Dan and I hiked back into camp together...and look at the great view of Mt. Borah we had from camp!

John reported this trip as 11 miles, while my gps is only claiming 9, but it felt every bit of 11 to me. We were gone 9 1/4 hrs car to car without much of a break all day. My heart rate monitor never registered anything, except running time, because my camelback blocked the signal all day and it was too cold to bother with it. I had water all the way up, but the small amount of time on the summit froze it for the rest of the day.

I didn't really even notice...Boy...what a great climb!

Thanks to all the IdahoSummits guys for such a great trip...Dan for your planning, John for your lead through the crux and tips, Steve for the great cooking, all of you for your humor and graciousness. If it turns out that I am the first woman on an IdahoSummits outing, then I am well beyond honored. You're a great group.

I uploaded all of my pictures, Pat's and John's photos as well (I gave you photo credits) to my Picasa site, where you can see them all together and the captions tell the story as well.

Dan's Trip Report

Dave's Trip Report

Splattski's Trip Report

Steve's Photos

Take a Google Earth Tour of our route


Jerad said...

:-) Love to have done that!!

Tikaram said...

wow!! Very very interesting... Nice images of himalays
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