February 24, 2019

2018/2019 Winter Recap (so far!)

This winter has been, well, pretty amazing in my great home here in the little Wasatch.  Since the age of 4, I have skied and spent time in these mountains. Each year has had its time filled with happiness and goodness but also challenge. Some of the years however just stand out for one reason or another.  The winter of 2010/2011 and this winter have been two of those banner years in my mind's memory bank. This year has been one of those from a winter mountain travel perspective. 

The snow this year has been off the charts good, so there has been a lot of unreal skiing and great memories. This year we have consistently had to deal with wind loading, dangerous aged facets in the snow pack and frankly heavy snow loads. It's been interesting and wonderful In addition my wife and son are touring more too which has been a real treat. I have had some great days with my friends.  Setting personal vertical goals has been fun and fulfilling too. Some of my favorite shots from the season stand below.  

My boy Carson drilling 4K of vert this day
Scott W in White Pine
Lars- T Fork

Lars in TG Slide Path
Breaking Trail in B Fork
Pretty Deep
Not a bad day in WP Couloir
Lars on a trackless morning
Pretty good morning
Courtesy Jeff Ambrose

Justin W Crushing It
An action shot- Courtesy Will Hansen
Brother Jeff Ambrose
My sweetie

My boy Carson!

November 22, 2018

The Thumb- S Direct: Retracing the past with a new generation

On November 21, 2018, Carson (my 17 year old son) and I left our warm car, the only one in the Gate Buttress parking lot, at 8 am all bundled up for a cold morning. We anxiously watched for the summit of the Thumb to begin glowing as the morning torch letting us know morning had really arrived and that yes, the sun would actually rise and warm the rock before us.  On December 1, 2000, I first climbed the Thumb S Direct, with KC Tubbs. 18 years ago, and Carson wasn't even born yet. I remember being shocked by the two crazy run-out pitches on the ocean of granite. This, with my son would be my first time back since then. This time, a new inspiring generation forging his own steps of history.

We stashed our packs at Plumbline believing we were going to do the down-hike from the summit. We then traversed over to the base of the Thumb proper. Now out of the sink of the canyon, with gear ready to roll, it was warming up and Carson was stoked to climb! This would be Carson's first ascent of the Thumb buttress and to the top. Boasting more than 1,200 feet of granite and  10 or 11 pitches of incredible climbing, spectacular position in the canyon, ascending it is a real Thumbs up trip and makes for a memorable adventure. 

Feeling like Tommy Caldwell, well maybe, Carson donned his brand new La Sportiva TC Pros and we soloed the first 5.3 pitch, which is about 100 feet in length and goes up a right facing trough and then angles to the left to the start of pitch 2.

Pitch 2, next to the chimney, climbs about 110 feet or so, first next to the chimney then up a slanting, right facing corner with some fun lie back moves and then moves steeply left into a notch to fixed anchors. Carson led this pitch with confidence.

Pitch 3, the beginning of the Indecent Exposure variation climbs a double crack face and then goes into some trees that are embedded into a trough. The first 20 moves of the pitch are fun crack climbing. This pitch did not have fixed anchors at the belay, at least we couldn't find em. About 120 feet long I'd guess. Carson also led this pitch and loved the first part as the morning rays poured down on us.

Pitch 4, the climbing enhances on this pitch with a lovely hands to fist, to arm crack that then contours a small corner with a fun lay back and then onto the incredibly featured lunch ledge. I led this one and we both really enjoyed this pitch.

Pitch 5, after some Snickers and Gatorade and high fives, Carson set off on the incredible first pitch of the ever classic S Direct route, leading up the 80 degree ramp/arete. This pitch is caked with black chicken head features. The climbing on this pitch gets 4 stars in my opinion. Carson crushed it, laughing and gasping with excitement, making it to the anchors about 100 feet up next to a roof.

Pitch 6, the iconic entry into the ocean of white. The pitch starts up another chimney with an awkward move, to an old piton and then a crack wide enough for a number 3 Camalot. Beyond that the vastness of the sea of granite opens up before you and the first bolt is about 20' up wards. With fun smearing on a nearly featureless face, you move past 4 run out bolts to the anchors. The crux was between the first two bolts. I led this one and did not get the same shock as I did 18 years ago. It felt like a new additional bolt had been added (too bad).

Pitch 7, another run out slab pitch. Here you can take the original line up to a bolt and then to the right and then up or just head straight up for a little harder direct variation. We chose the latter as I had already done the original.  Up we went past two run out bolts then over two or three small overlay roofs to the chains about 100 or so feet up. This pitch had chicken heads for slinging to the left the third overlay which took the run-out down to 30 feet or so.   Carson, following was shackled with carrying the day pack and my approach shoes. He loved these two pitches!

Pitch 8, another run out pitch but easier goes straight up right of a crack to the roof under cling. This roof is where Spring Fever also ends. Under clinging the roof, I plugged a number 2 Camalot, then wrapped around, slinging a small tree and then up to a tree for an anchor.

Pitch 9, Carson led us up the remaining rock which became lower angled, directly to the base of the summit pinnacle.  We flaked the rope here and then walked next to the trees to the west ridge.

Pitch 10, a short but exposed and fun-filled pitch takes you to the top of the Thumb Pinnacle.  Carson was excited about the Summit! it was now 1 P.M. He did incredible. Here we met up with Chris and Madison of the Gear Room in SLC.  These two young studs had just climbed/flown up all of the hardest contiguous pitches on the Thumb. Starting with S Crack, Knob Job and ending with Robbins Crack. They had apparently each climbed the Thumb 25 times!! They knew the buttress like a mom knows her child. They shared some really helpful descent beta as Carson and I had decided to rappel the route.

Back when I first did this, KC and I with only the beta from the Ruckman guidebook with double ropes rappelled the Thumb and I remember we stuck a rope. It required me to prussik ascend the rope to free it. Luckily this time, for Carson and I it was smooth abseiling, with a single 70 meter. I did overshoot one anchor at the 9ht rappel. After 11 rappels, we reached the ground.  I could not be more proud of Carson. He was so excited as was I!  It's a new generation. We got back to the car at 4 PM.

Pitch 1
Carson, heading up Pitch 2
Carson, pitch 3
Carson, incredible pitch 5
Carson, "bold elegance on a sea of granite" Ruckmans
More of Pitch 6
Carson topping out Pitch 7
Looking up Pitch 8
Carson the Thumb Pinnacle, pitch 9
Chris and Madison, speeding down the Ocean of Granite
Carson and one last look
Taken day after

Rappels 70M single:
1st- West chains summit
2nd- Down buttress to trough
3rd- Down hike or belay down to top of offwidth roof (top of Spring Fever)
4th- Top of roof to top of pitch 7
5th- Top of pitch 6
6th- Top of pitch 5 to Lunch Ledge
7th- Below notch below Lunch Ledge
8th- Down towards S Crack- don't overshoot the intermediary anchors!
9th- From intermediary anchors
10th-Last down lateral to top of pitch 1
11th- Final to the dirt

November 7, 2018

Reptile Ridge

Saturday morning on October 27th, Owen my 14 year old and I met up with Brian Smoot and Annie Smoot, Brian's daughter for an excellent outing in upper Little Cottonwood. Brian, a legend in many aspects, an incredible father, husband and example to me has spent years developing the climbing on the Pawn. Lucky for Owen and I, Brian invited us along. We got to choose which of his first ascent routes we wanted to climb too! All of them I hoped, but we selected the "Path of the Argonian." A most lovely line with a perfect mixture of face and crack climbing. We climbed as two teams. Brian has an incredible eye for new lines, is one of the great climbing pioneers of the Wasatch Range and a climbing historian extraordinaire. 

We had a delightful time with Annie and Brian, who obviously share a very strong bond, punctuated by the rope between them. It was great for me to have the opportunity to do a multi-pitch route with Owen high in the range. Climbing with your children is the most rewarding of experiences. We were out all day for an incredible journey just the four of us in the spectacular mountains we call home.

Owen and Annie coming up fixed line set by Johnathan Smoot
Brian following Annie on he and his brother Johnathan's line
Owen coming up the first pitch
Brian and Annie
Owen on the fabulous pitch 2
Annie following her dad on Pitch 3
Me and Owen Pitch 3- Courtesy Annie Smoot
Owen topping out on Pitch 3
Another shot of Pitch 3, the Thumb Summit below- Courtesy Brian Smoot
Brian heading up Pitch 4 with Coalpit in the background
Owen near the top of Pitch 4
Courtesy Annie Smoot
Summit!- Courtesy Brian Smoot
Brian and his rope post two abseils- Lone and Thunder staring from behind

August 25, 2018

The Arm and Hammer

Astonishingly 18 years ago, I found myself, my brother and our friend Brett up on the top of Arm and Hammer's infamous Zion Curtain. It met every hope back then, and I still vividly remember it. I was climbing a lot more back then, was younger and my oldest kid was only 1 year old. "Back then," there was no "mountain project," or other blogs that provided beta on routes. Luckily inspiring climbers like Brian Smoot and the Ruckman brothers had wonderfully documented routes in their respective Wasatch Guidebooks.  

A lot has changed over those nearly 20 years in the world of climbing and the proliferation of information, however yesterday, Jason Dorais and I  found that the Arm and Hammer luckily hadn't. 

We linked the first two 5.7 pitches of the Ellsworth Mc route into one.  Then indulged in the 5.10 A0 tension traverse pitch. Jason climbed up the Zion Curtain with nothing but smiles. Pitch four, 5.9, following the ZC pitch was one of our favorites with the varied mix of crack climbing diversity. Pitch five, 5.easy took us to the top of the route. We did 4 rappels I believe.  We racked up doubles to #3 and one #4 which came in handy at the top of pitch 4 on the left side of the roof. At the base of the climb, before we roped up, we discovered we had forgotten our wired nuts. I was freaked! As an old school guy, (who still frequently uses stoppers) before we started I just stared at Jason. He looked at me and said "today we are going to make you a modern day climber old man." 
The route delivered on every hope.

JD looking for stoppers

Pitch 1

Me starting the Tension Traverse Pitch

JD coming up the bolt line on the spectacular first Tension Traverse Pitch
Moving over to the ever sacred Zion Curtain
As good as it gets
Me start of pitch 4
On top
Brilliant day. Top of last pitch
One of several rappels