Friday, June 24, 2011

Report from Kurt

On a lighter note, the ever-facetious Kurt has submitted the following report. As Kurt is fond of saying, we should give it all the consideration it's worth.

Major North Rim Linkup
Kurt Krueger

Keeping up with the big link ups of routes in the Alps and Yosemite, I completed a major link up last Tuesday at Mill Creek. Leveraging maximum daylight from the longest day of the year, I teamed up with Brian Quilter to complete Pie for Strength after work. This was done after getting the second ascent of Because It's There on Saturday with Michael Moore. So to repeat: Both Because It's There and Pie for Strength were enchained in 84 hours. With a little more training, I think I can get the time down to 68 to 72 hours. With my dog Gracie's help, I have also stashed about 3 gallons of water in the area. With the gains of a lighter pack obtained from this cache, I could likely knock off another 2 hours. In fact, taking advantage of the warm weather, a bivy might be possible. I believe it is not unreasonable to consider a 30 hour link up (car to car) for the two routes.

Some may find it hard to compare my link up with those of, say, Half Dome and El Cap in a day. But consider the following.

Climbs like Half Dome's Regular Northwest Face or the Nose on El Cap have seen thousands of ascents. You can watch videos to see exactly how the routes are done. The climbs themselves are clearly marked with chalk and shoe rubber and topos abound. The Half Dome route has even been climbed solo, without a rope, and the Nose routinely gets climbed in under 3 hours. But as anyone who's climbed Give and Take knows (and that includes all four of us), there are many challenges including vegetation, loose rock and a guano-filled chimney, plus nothing in the way of chalk to show you what holds to use. To make matters worse, Michael, when he followed, tossed off most of the holds I used, claiming they were "loose." Obviously, there's no comparison between Give and Take and those other routes.

Second, as anyone who's climbed with Brian knows, he prefers slings and oval mountaineering carabiners to lightweight quickdraws. The cumulative effect of carrying that extra weight can't be ignored. There's no doubt in my mind that these factors combine to level the playing field.

So, the challenge has been laid down. This could be the hardest link up in Montana. Or at least, the only one I know of.

Editor's Note: Five or so years ago, Kyle Neeley and partner Eric climbed Flat Head, Shoshone and Nez Perce in a single day. Just sayin'...

Kurt third class on an all-natural, top secret crack
located somewhere east of the Divide.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Because It's There First Ascent

photo: Tim Karst

We received email last week from Bill Hapak reporting his first ascent, along with partner Kyle Hanson, of the overhanging chimney Because It's There. The climb is listed in the second edition of the guide as a project, and is tagged with the Green Bay Packers helmet, signifying the hand of "idea man" Kurt Krueger, and alerting all to its likely scrappy nature. It's located left of Li'l Crack, and to the right of the Tick Farm wall.

Bill led the climb in classic style: first ascent, ground up, on-sight, entirely on gear. There's a lot of loose rock, so helmets should be considered mandatory, plus exercise the usual caution of keeping the belayer out of the fall line. Note also there are no bolts, so plan to build your own anchors including at the top of the climb.

The following comes from details Bill sent about the climb.

Because It's There
5.9R (provisional)

Pitch 1 (5.7R)

Start about twenty feet left of Li'l Crack following the path of least resistance through a few shrubs, with surprisingly decent protection. The first pitch is somewhat loose but manageable if you tread lightly. About fifty feet up you will reach a solid ledge about thirty feet below the roof. Belay from here. Anchor is bomber, many options are possible. Hand-sized cams (bd # 2's) work very well.

Pitch 2 (5.8+/5.9R)

Climb straight up towards the roof with good protection and solid purchase. Directly below the roof the rock gets very loose. Be sure to check all hand and foot holds as some are very precarious. On the bottom side of the roof there is a diagonal crack in which a bd .5 protects beautifully (true textbook placement) in very solid rock. Consider placing two on a sliding x as this is the last viable piece of protection. Traverse left through a fun but somewhat loose section, again treading lightly. From there head straight into the mouth of the chimney. The chimney is super secure and fun, and is just wide enough to snake through to the top without becoming a squeeze or off-width. Top anchor options are minimal, so expect to take some time to construct, and belay from a seated position.

Descend in full trad mode by walking off to the east to regain the main approach trail.

Footnote: A Saturday exploration by Kurt Krueger revealed that you can do some down climbing a little ways east of the topout, then walk back along a ledge to the Li'l Crack anchors and rap from there. Kurt did the climb with Michael seconding and confirmed Bill's proposed grade.