Alpental Ice - March 2001

Emily and I decided to take a short day of ice climbing at Alpental this weekend for we had heard that the ice was still thick and plastic. Also, my new Koflach boots (that fit!) arrived in the mail, along with the BOEALPS new Cobra ice tool. It was time to play with the new gear!

Emily approaching the infamous Kiddy Cliff flow.

Arriving late at the upper Alpental parking lot, it was very warm. I had my doubts after seeing the road cut ice on the way up to the pass all melted out of shape, and the lateness of the season. But we were there and figured we might as well commit to humping the gear up to the falls and see if it was in. We had chosen the Kiddy Cliff falls as our destination, about 30 minutes up the West side of the valley just past the "Mushroom Couloir" in the Alpental backcountry.

The plowed skiiers trail for the ski area offered a solid ice trail all the way into the falls. Sure we had to dodge the occasional snowboarder/skiier, but well worth it to not post hole all the way in! When we arrived, the ice looked to be in great shape, far thicker than when we'd climbed here in December! However, due to all the snowfall, the first step was entirely buried with snow.

Dave leading up on thick ice.

Our initial plan to setup a quick toprope gave way to my desire to lead the flow by a very nice central line. It seems like most people tend to climb the far left side, which leads to an easier step at 3/4 height, but I think the best line is up in between the two rock ribs in the climb.

The climb was solid WI3 and very good ice! I sunk 3 17cm screws in the pitch and they were all bomber. As I neared the top where I had previously gone right (far) to a tree, I noticed a supper anchor left in place up and left, atop the left side route. I tenuously moved over deep sugar snow flutings to the bomber two tree anchor with slings and carabiners and rapped down. Amazingly, the pitch that had taken the full rope earlier in the year was reduced to just about 25 meters!

Emily climbing the middle line.

Emily and I proceeded to run laps all over the falls, testing out the new BD Cobra and trying more challenging lines. I didn't like the Cobra as much as my Black Prophet because on lower angled ice I kept hitting the spike before the pick, and the clearance shaft has an awkward swing. On steep ice I could hardly tell a difference between the Prohpet and the Cobra, except that I hit my knuckles more with the Cobra. Hmmm, worth $300?

This climb is steeper than it looks from below!

Occasionally a few skiiers above would send massive loose snow avalanches off the far right side of the falls. This got us a little worried every time we heard hooting and hollering. Unfortunately The powder pigs soon found new terrain directly above us, and sent down a couple soft white presents for us. I guess it just serves as another warning: do not climb here during heavy snowfall or when there is the possibility of avalanche! It will come down! Luckily what did come down was small and just tended to bury the ends of the rope. It's probably a good idea to clip in everything to the anchor while climbing here.

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