Angel’s Crest full conditions ascent
Per ardua ad astra!
November 11, 2012
It all started with a little conversation on “Squamish Photos and Stories”.
Squeamish Nov 8, 2012 - 07:42pm PT
Mike, we should do an Angels Crest in the rain mission, can't let Luke have all the fun!
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 8, 2012 - 07:53pm PT
let's do it sunday dude!!!
Vancouver, B.C. Nov 8, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
Sunday may be invalid - it's supposed to be decent weather.
A long way from where I started Nov 8, 2012 - 09:35pm PT
If I hadn't lived there for twenty years, I'd think you guys were sick.
But I understand.
After it's been raining forever, and you know that all there will be in the future is more rain, you can enter a separate reality. I can remember climbing Grandaddy overhang one winter "because it's an overhang, man. It'll be dry."
Yeah, right. Sort of. It took me over an hour to nail the second pitch in a sleet storm while Steve hung in a waterfall.
We were magnificently stupid, and it is gratifying to see that the tradition continues.
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 8, 2012 - 10:04pm PT
Nov 8, 2012 - 09:25pm PT
Sunday may be invalid - it's supposed to be decent weather.
Squamish Nov 8, 2012 - 10:40pm PT
Hehehehe this is one of the best sentences I've read on this thread in some time.
yes he's calling u rain climbers stupid, but only based on his past stupidity so u can't hold it against him. Beautiful.
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2012 - 05:59pm PT
Lol! I guess when you really want to climb, you just go. Something tells me testing the limits has something to do with it too.
Hey Ryand I heard you got out with Kieran the other day??
BC Nov 9, 2012 - 06:05pm PT
We were magnificently stupid, and it is gratifying to see that the tradition continues.
The art of alpinism distilled into one sentence.
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2012 - 06:53pm PT
classic special k...
BC Nov 9, 2012 - 07:22pm PT
I'm just repeating what has been handed down to us, and Dave is passing the torch to you maniacs.
"Conquistadors of the Useless" - Lionel Terray
"Witlessly bold, Heroically Dull" - Tobin sorenson
Squamish Nov 9, 2012 - 07:24pm PT
I don't know why everyone is opting to aid, rain & consider even ice climbing. Had 3 days of climbing dry Squamish stone in the beautiful sun this week. Mike, yep me & Kieran had a good time yesterday for sure, he's psyched, I like it. Hopefully we'll get out again soon so long as light Luke doesn't give him AID tonight.
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 9, 2012 - 07:39pm PT
Squeamish Nov 10, 2012 - 08:42am PT
Forecast says snow mixed with rain for Sunday arvo, we should aim for that Mike if I can escape my 1 month old future climber....
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2012 - 08:47am PT
Sounds good?? ;)
BC Nov 10, 2012 - 08:58am PT
Sunday sounds perfect for Angels Crest! No I'm not kidding - winter alpinism kicks total ass!
The first time I met Perry I was with Peter and Tami wandering around looking for ice. Peter said "Hey Perry's up on the Grand - lets go yell at him!"
Thats right - yell. This was before the Intardnet and confusers.
Anyway up we went to the base and there he was way up there gunning for the Flats. Everything was quite wintery with wild waves of spindrift flowing down the slabs. All our yelling must have eroded his resolve somewhat as a few hours later he was on the ground and we headed back to his dive on No Name Rd for a tea or something.
Him way up there all by his lonesome in the thick of winter is something i'll never forget. If you really want to go wild around here winter is the best bet .
BC Topic Author's Reply - Nov 10, 2012 - 09:50am PT
But Bruce, I'm skeeerd!! :) sounds adventurous that's for sure :)
So the plan was set. I was really hoping the snow and ice wouldn’t be that bad as we were only taking rock gear. It started out great, It was a cold crisp fall day, but dry.
Fishboy, are we really doing this??
So we headed up the trail. We didn’t get started till at least 11 which was my fault entirely, but we had headlamps and cold weather gear and were pretty much ready for anything. The trail was surprisingly dry which boosted my spirts, and Nick and I made short work of it with one brief stop for me to de-layer.
Me near the start of the route
When we got to the base of the route, I tried to solo up the tree with my gloves on but it just didn’t feel very secure so I backed down. Nick says, “The crux is at the bottom mate.” So I took off my gloves and managed to crank onto the first branch. I felt fairly secure going up it but damn those branches are slippery and polished.. I swear they are worse when it’s cold too. Nick commented “That tree gets harder every time I solo it!” ;)
oh yeah did I mention it was my first time soloing that tree?? Scary as f**k…
We roped up at the base of Angel Crack and I gave Nick the lead since I knew he would fire the pitch faster than me.
He did it in style, and linked the crux pitch 10b as well. I climbed it pretty smooth and was genuinely enjoying the experience of being there this late in the year. There were tiny snowflakes in the air by that point but it wasn’t sticking, and I wasn’t really worried it would get too crazy…..
Nick took this selfie at the belay.
I racked up quickly and before I left Nick said “You can just keep climbing if you want, I don’t mind simuling a bit.” So I did, and I linked the next three pitches which was awesome. The 10a was especially cool since the tree that everyone used to grab seems to have disappeared at the top and I actually did the move this time. I brought us up to the base of the next 10a and when Nick got there he told me that he was halfway up the 10a corner in the middle of my lead by the time I put him on... :)
We stopped for a moment to take these pics,
Then Nick set off again. I got this one from the belay.
If you look closely at the last photo you will see ice dribbles just above and to the right of where Nick is in the photo. This was the first ice crux. The dribbles are actually more of a smear up higher exactly where you want to put your foot and rock over. Nick took a little whip on the ice and then said “ I think this just turned into an anything goes ascent”.
He pulled on the cam and managed to free the rest of the pitch despite it’s somewhat icy condition. By the time I was headed up the pitch there was snow in all the cracks and the gear was lightly dusted as well. It felt somewhat surreal to be up there in a storm like that…
This is what it looked like when I got up to Nick’s belay..
He asked me if I was ok to continue, and I looked at our one 70m rope and replied well we don’t really have much of a choice at this point, but he said “we could still get off this thing”. I knew we could but also knew it would suck just as bad as continuing so I told him I was fine, and “Let’s get up this thing!”.
We ran up to the base of the 5.9 which I was expecting to be the crux of the route, because it’s typically wet so I expected it to be fairly icy. I wasn’t wrong…
It should have been my lead, but I told Nick “Your idea, your lead”. We laughed a little and Nick headed up the pitch. He yanked on some gear to get through the ice crux, when he got up to the ledge and had a look around the corner he said “This whole damn corner is iced over!”… Then he starts breaking up the ice and tossing huge chunks of it away from my belay calling “ICE!” Funniest damn thing I’ve ever seen on a rock climb! ;)
He managed to get through it but pulled on a couple pieces, and this is what I saw when I made it around the corner.
The next scramble was interesting because everything was covered in snow and the route finding wasn’t straightforward by any means, but instinct kicked in and I ran up it to the base of the Acrophobes.
Me at the Lower Acrophobe Tower
Nick offered me the lead again and I turned him down reasoning that he would be faster leading this snowy nightmarish slab since he had been there recently and is a kick ass climber. Priority at this point was GET THE FVCK OFF THIS ROCK!!!!
Nick setting off on the Lower Acrophobe Tower.
He managed to make it look fairly easy, but he was digging out practically every placement and it definitely took longer under these conditions. He managed to do it clean though, and every time he would call “Mike Safe!” for the rest of the climb, I would sigh a little breath of relief.
I somehow managed to follow cleanly and by the time I reached the gear it was covered in snow. I had to brush it all off to take it out, and try and brush off footholds as I went so I wouldn’t slip in my mythos. The Knife edge ridge was interesting, because it was the first time that I had ever butt slid across the thing and I was worried that I would rip my pants. ;)
Fish boy lowered me off the tower and I took this photo while he rapped.
Looking across from behind the Lower Acrophobe Tower
He told me to take off while he pulled the rope, so I did and ran over the notch and had him lower me off the anchor at the top. I tried to tell him I was going to climb up the other side to the second tree but he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t really hear him so I was at the first tree when he called “OFF BELAY!” lucky I was because I anchored myself to it and said, OK!
I took in the slack and Nick says stop I’m not even attached to the rope!! I’m like wtf? He solos up the notch and tries to pull the rope up but of course, it gets stuck in the crack…. No Biggee, he goes to save it and when he gets back I get him to throw me on belay so I can get to the next tree.
I got Nick to stop on his way up for this one
We racked up and Nick took off again, up the next corner, there was a bit of ice on it, but not too bad and he made his way up it fairly quickly. I managed to free it and actually found it easier than any other ascent I’d made up the crest. It was pretty snowy but the jams were still good and the gear was pretty much buried again.
When I arrived at the belay Nick asked again if I would like to lead. At this point I knew that would mean he would have to stand there for another full pitch. I knew that wouldn’t be a good move. I didn’t want either one of us to get unnecessarily cold, and we had a good rhythm going despite the conditions.
Well maybe the fact that the next 5.8 pitch would actually be the crux pitch of the route and I wasn’t even sure if we could get up it might have been a factor too… we know there is a variation as well but neither of us have climbed it so we went with the devil we knew.
Nick starting up the Whaleback arête pitch
The fist crack actually went pretty well for Nick besides the fact we didn’t bring much big gear. He looked secure and made pretty good time, considering the conditions. However, it was a different story when he got up to the arête. A snowy slab with no protection until after the crux 5.5 move which was rendered much harder and insecure as a result of the conditions. I couldn’t see what was happening but he wasn’t very happy getting started on it and once he disappeared the rope was barely moving.
I was pretty much praying at that point that he wouldn’t fall and looking at the rope in my belay intently for any movement. Finally there was some, and then more, and then a lot as he ran to the belay. When he called safe I instantly felt better about our prospects of getting off the Chief that night.
Nick bought me up and somehow I managed to free it again, literally digging the gear out of the crack this time. The spindrift was incredible and it was blowing snow in all directions and coating almost everything.
When I got to the Whale Back crux and saw what he had done, I laughed and followed his path to the left, some grassy foot holds to a shitty horn that was somehow still slung when I got there, then up the slippery crux to the arete where he finally got a half decent cam in. What a joke!… I looked at him and said “What are we doing here??”
We laughed and he pulled out a thermos with chai tea in it and handed me a cup.
This time there was no discussion about who was leading. Nick said, “Gimme the gear I gotta get out of here”. He racked up and I had another cup of tea. I was glad that I had made the choice last pitch to continue our flow, because if he was cold now, imagine if I had led that pitch!
He started up the 10a headwall and slipped a little trying to get in the grove but landed on the tree that was conveniently right there and he seemed unharmed. Next time he yanked his way up on the piton and got himself established on the crack.
It was pretty dark by that point and I was huddled around the corner to stay out of the weather on the exposed ridge, so I didn’t see much but the rope would stop then pull a bunch of slack then run for a bit, repeat, ad nauseum. Afterword, he told me he was jugging cams a bit. It took him awhile but at this point, I was just happy the rope was going up.
After what seemed like an eternity he finally called safe, and I was relieved because my feet were getting so cold. I had big thick ski socks on with my rock shoes and it was actually quite warm all day but I guess standing there on the cold snowy Whaleback arête had chilled them out pretty good. More than one pair of liner gloves would have been an excellent idea also.
I started up the next pitch off the tree and nearly slipped on the tree itself just getting established in the crack. Conditions weren’t exactly primo for freeclimbing in rock shoes… I got myself in there and nearly got my feet in the jams when I slipped doing some weird knee flag move because there was snow on all the foot holds.
As I fell, the rope stretched a wee bit (coulda been the Doritos I ate) and pulled fish boy off his stance due to his loosely-constructed anchor. He was hiding from the weather behind the wall all nice and comfy and when I fell I pulled him out into the blistering wind and snow.
Then I tried the move again and succumbed to my weakness calling for a take. I hung there almost 2000 feet off the ground, in the dark, exhausted and battered by a raging storm. The crack in front of me was buried in snow and the gear was gone. The headwall was a salt and pepper concoction of some sort and it was all quite the sensory experience to say the least.
Meanwhile Nick’s swearing at me at the belay because he’s still freezing in the wind... So I get off my a$$ and pulled on the gear to get myself established on the crack. The rest of the pitch went clean except a few more takes because I was exhausted at this point.
Nick was stoked when I got to the belay because it meant he could hide from the weather again.. HAHAHAHA.
This was the first decent ledge in a while, but we weren’t wasting any time getting off this thing. Nick grabbed the gear and ducked into the tunnel to the squeeze chimney. He managed to make his way across the snowy ledge fairly easily and was trying to get established in the squeeze chimney, when he dropped his knee into the crack below it and got it stuck.
He says to me “Mike my knee is stuck man and I can’t get it out!”, “Every time I move it, it goes deeper!”. “Just relax”, I said, “You got it in there, you can get it out.”
He tried for a bit and then he says “No I can’t!”, “You gotta come help me!!”. “Ok, well how are we going to do that?” I said. “Are you going to build a gear belay there and bring me over?” “You gotta come help me!!!” he says and then pop, it came out. “I got it out!” Nick says. “Thank God!” I said, “I was worried if we couldn’t get it out we might have to call for a rescue!!! Wouldn’t that be the ultimate irony….
Nick made his way up the rest of the pitch with much less difficulty than how it had started, but still took him some time. The rope felt like it barely moved for an eternity and then all of a sudden it started moving faster and faster. When he topped out and yelled “Safe!” I screamed at him and he screamed back! We were both pretty damn stoked! We were almost up there!!
He put me on belay and said “Don’t get your knee stuck!”……. When I made my way across the sloping ledge of the tunnel, I realized that I had never noticed how sloped it was until it was covered in snow… I managed to get into the chimney without risking getting my knee stuck but bailed trying to get established.
I tried again and managed to get established this time and made some progress before I called for another take. I hung there for a bit and Nick said “Come on mate! You can do it!” I summoned the last of my energy and sent the rest of the pitch.
When I crawled out of the slot, Nick says to me, “I honestly never thought it would get this bad!”. “I knew it could” I said, “I was hoping it wouldn’t.” He laughed and said “Why did you agree to come up here with me then!?!?”. “It’s 2012 buddy! Time to get sh#t done. No time to waste!” He laughed and gave me some tea, which I happily drank.
Then I took these crappy summit shots.
I posted a quick summit post to my thread, and we ran across the snowy blank vista of granite. It was quite surreal to see it covered in snow like that, like a moonscape of some sort. Fish boy found the trail despite the snow cover and we made our way off the top and down into the forest. The chains and ladders were quite nice to have under those conditions.
We stopped when we got into the gully for a quick rest and safety discussion. When we were fully rested we made our way down the trail. It went quickly as we chatted happily about life and I only got a chance to bug Nick about not leaving a car in the Chief parking lot a couple times.
We made it back to the rigs eventually and were better off for the walk. I told Nick that our ascent would be invalidated if we didn’t go to the pub for a couple beers. He agreed and we met up at the Brewpub for Burgers and Beers!
Thanks to Nick for getting my butt off that rock! I know that if it came down to it I could have done it, but he stepped up to the plate and got us up there!!