Directly after the New Year and our fantastic drive down from Seattle back to our home in Pasadena, I boarded a flight to Utah and the home of our favorite mountain guide Jonathon (see previous post for our thoughts on Jonathon). This trip was going to be something completely new to me and something I have wanted to do fora very long time-Ice Climbing! To me whenever I pictured mountain climbing, and this is before I even thought of trying it, what I pictured was bearded men with backpacks, ice axes in hand and spikes on their feet, so when I did become interested in climbing it was ice climbing that seemed the epitome of the field. It would be a long time til I swung an axe, but that day finally came as I arrived in Utah to great ice conditions and weather and at the foot of a route called "Stairway to Heaven", I was told it was named after some song. Jonathon gave me some tips and we practiced on some very low angle snow and ice. Then we roped up for some top roping.
It was amazing and tiring on my calves. We then did two mini pitches on the bottom of the route to practice for "The Great White Icicle" which is a multi-pitch route Jonathon would lead me on in two days time. We finished with a steeper pitch which had my arms screaming, it was awesome.
The next day we woke up early to attempt Superior Peak, a really aesthetic peak with a jagged ridge leading to it. The people skiing at the Snowbird resort who's helipad and chalet are directly across the street have a great view of it. Jonathon broke trail for us sometimes going deep into the snow past his knee, he is 6' 2' so it got pretty deep on this "low" snow year. We hiked up a couloir to the saddle, took a break and then headed onto the ridge, because of conditions we turned back and did have good fun bounding down thesteep snowy couloir. Since that day ended a little early Jonathon took me to the Black Diamond store located near by. The manufacturing is done right below the store which was pretty cool to think about. We ended the day at a local climber/skier spot called "The Porcupine" with some wings.
Game Day - Woke up at a reasonable hour had some coffee and headed to "The Great White Icicle," a super popular WI3 climb part way up Little Cottonwood Canyon. It had been lightly snowing all morning and the short approach had a true winter wonderland vibe. At the end of the day I would have a lot of firsts under my belt - first multi-pitch route (more than 2 pitches), first time using a 2 rope system, and first hanging belay (off 2 ice screws no less). The ice was great and made me pretty confident. It was strange looking at the route in books and then on site the pitches I was worried about were my favorite and the ones I thought wouldn't be too bad were taxing. I'm still so new to this, but all these firsts I really savored cause you just get one first time. The whole route was super magical, we could hear the water running under us as we climbed and it was snowy and misty giving a very alpine feel even though we could almost see our car from the top. The walk off was through fresh deep snow that was really fun to walk through and think about the day.
Now one thing I have not mentioned is all these great venues are within an hour of downtown Salt Lake City. Utah is the spot for climbing of all kinds within close proximity to one another. Get out there!
So thank you Jonathon and Utah, it was a blast!