Joe and I did the Matrix on Saturday at Avalanche Lake. What an epic...check this out.
At a good stance at 20', Joe set down is tools on a snow ramp, then placed some gear. Afterwards, when he was ready to climb, he couldn't locate his second tool. I searched around the base of the route in case it slipped off, but to no avail. Turns out, his tool was resting on some snow that covered a 4" crack; the snow gave way and his tool was now buried 8' down the slot. Perhaps you can imagine the string of explicatives that could be heard echoing through the canyon walls.
I passed him up a ski pole and a headlamp, but he couldn't fish it out. I found a dead tree and carefully stripped all the branches except for a few key "hooking" branches at the end, then hoisted this up to Joe. He could barely reach the axe, as the tree was too long and fat. He threw it down to me to cut off a few feet, but it broke on impact, rendering it useless. I hunted around for another tree and, finding a good candidate, again proceeded to carefully cut off all the dead branches except the key hooking branches at the end. After I was done, I tried kicking off the roots at the base. The vibrations caused the stick to break in two. Fuck! By this time, Joe was getting pretty cold.
Next, I took my pocket knife and cut a 12' live sapling. While stripping the branches, another party headed for the Trap Dike walked past, allowing me to scam some tape. I taped an open biner on the end to serve as a hook, then passed the new stick up to Joe. Result! Joe threw down the ski pole, head lamps, and sticks, and, after nearly 3 hours of delay, finally started to climb.
The climb goes up an offwidth 7" crack coated with verglass; this proved to be the first crux. Joe nearly backed off, but finally managed to grunt and sweat his way up to a chock stone -- the key -- and some thicker ice. The top of this crack is the "launch pad" -- a flat ledge with a roof above. After placing some pins and a good tri cam, Joe launched up with a series of one-arm pulls, wrapping his legs around a fragile icicle for balance. He ended up kicking this off (making it marginally harder), but finally got situated on the thin ice above. He then ran it out for 25' to some thicker ice where he placed a couple good screws. Whew! Another overhang led to a thinly iced corner, where he tied off spectres in series, then placed a tied-off stubbie, then ran it out up to the base of the vertical pilars near the top. A couple good screws saw him yelping for joy in the trees. She go!
I followed the pitch without incident.
At the top, we joked how much it would suck if we left out axes on top like Bones did on the Creighton-Korman at Smuggs. Ha ha ha, wouldn't that suck. We made absolutely sure we had our axes, then rapped off, pulled the ropes, and coiled them. Only then did we realize we left the entire rack tied to a branch. FUCK!
It was getting late now, so, without further delay, we climbed up the Trap Dike for a couple hundred feet until we could solo-climb some cedars onto the steep slope to the left. We got cliffed numerous times, and, after a few bouts of semi-serious cedar pulling, finally managed to find the top of the route. We rapped without incident, then skied the 7 miles back to the car, the last mile of which was in darkness.
So much for the epic on the Matrix.
The next day we headed for a climb called "Spike", a rarely repeated gem on a rock buttress on the left where Chapel Pond narrows towards the outlet (it's above and left of Laceration and Reunion). I've looked up at these pilars before and thought some big shot from the west would nab these some day. Turns out, Joe grabbed the FA after numerous attempts by the Stars. Due to the epic the day before, Joe insisted I lead everything. And, Joe being like he is, didn't want to "spoil" the experience by giving me any beta.
Tthe first pitch is completely rock, climbing a crack past some cedars, then traversing on M5 rock to an ice smear, then up to a cedar belay at mid-height on the wall. That traverse was a scary bit of climbing, as the dry tool placements were never incut; the key placement was a torqued pick in a horizontal...I felt like the pick could snap at any moment. Following, Joe took a higher series of holds, then did a controlled "fall" onto an axe hooked around a cedar at arms reach to the right. The second pitch started with 60' of ice "sneezed" onto the rock. I carefully picked my way up, finding bomber spectre, tri cam, and green camalot placements.
The route is named after Joe's dead dog "Spike", but also adequately describes the top 60' pilar shaped like a railroad spike. I reached the base of the pilar and, attempting to rest, braced my shoulder against the pilar, breaking off a large chunk. Somebody was telling me that the pilar was fragile. I did a scary series of pulls on thin ice into a rock alcove behind the pilar. I clipped a fix nut, and placed a bomber metolius #00 3-cam in a horizontal. Climbing way up in the roof, I was able to reach around the pilar and tap-tap-tap an axe into the outer face of the pilar. I swung around and did a one-arm pull to another axe placement above...plastic...bomber...joy. I hopped my feet up as high as possile, then climbed steep grade 5 ice for 15 feet to the top. She go!!!
Thus ends a few days of extreme ice...well, extreme for me. Just a walk in the park for Joe.