Author Topic: Protection on alpine climbs?  (Read 553 times)

Offline GRH

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Protection on alpine climbs?
« on: January 27, 2006, 01:26:19 PM »
 I have been wanting to climb some the gullies in Hunts and Tucks for a while now, as always I attempt to gather as much info before hand as possible and techniques vary.  My question is how many use protection on slopes like central or South in Hunts or the right side of Tucks.  There doesn,t seem to be a lot of ice and the snow depth can make rock pro impossible.  I don,t own snow anchors(nor have experience placing anchors) and most of the time that I have been there they seem pretty wind blown, with a heavy crust.  I know conditions change and individuals have different competencies, but many climb them without protection, even solo, but the grade and recent accidents in the ravines have me questioning my objectives. I have been hiking winter trails for 20 yrs, confident is self arrest, and a beginner ice climber (intro class and TR only), I have summated Wash. several times, but never in the dead of winter.  I hiked to the base last weekend and watched others chug right up Central, but wind, rain and time of day kept me from going any further.  I just don,t want to over extend myself, anyone else been there before?

Offline benlewis

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2006, 11:41:28 PM »
If you are simply looking to summit Washington in winter, you should just go up Lion's Head.  The trail is generally pretty easy, but an axe and crampons are definetely recommended.  It is a really good, fun hike, but prepare to get blasted when you get above treeline and onto the flats above the lion head!  Really windy last time I was up there!
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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2006, 09:19:58 AM »
I came from a hiking background like yours so I can relate.

I have not done South and Central but have done Odells and Pinnnacle. People use protection on ice if they feel they need it to be safe because of the technical difficulty of the climb or the condition of the ice.

As you are starting out and may not have a good "feel" for ice and your comptence on it, it would be prudent for you to bring protection for these and use it as you feel necessary. Personally, for there, I always bring 10 or so ice screws, some rock gear (a few stoppers, 2-3 tricams, and maybe a couple of cams), and 3 or 4 pitons. This may seem a lot (for South and Central especially) and opinions will greatly vary on this, but, when you need it you need it. I always climb faster (and have more fun) when I feel I am well protected. Steve House I am not!

People solo these and they are technically easy but you should treat them as  technical climbs. Learn how to place protection. If you want to test the system and yourself it might be best to do something like Willeys Slide first. The approach is easier, committment much less, for the first time you can always climb close to the side for an easy escape if needed, and all you need are ice screws, no rock gear. Shoestring Gully would then be good second climb.

Don't be too swayed by what others do. It is your life. When I first started my first "lead" was on the trestle slab at frankenstein where we rapped the slab and preplaced at least 8 screws. You cannot imagine the caustic comments we got from some.

Having said all this I have been thinking of some time to try Hillmans Highway in Tucks. It seems to be a pure snow climb. Skiers do it. I would not bring gear for this. I would think it best to wait for a heavy snow cover to reduce bush wacking and watch the avalanche report! This might be fun but as i said I have done it so can't comment personally.

I bet I am 1 for 3 on Huntington Ravine, now, if I read the forecast is for winds over 50 mph with temps 20F or below I don't even bother with it, I go up Lion's Head  to taste the beast or go someplace else

have fun

Offline GRH

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2006, 10:57:18 AM »
Thanks for your thoughts, I am basically attempting to increase me climbing skills from trails to technical climbs (vertical ice isn't my goals at this time), my greatest limitations are time practicing and competent partners.  My hiking and skiing buddies, don't have the same objectives and I usaually only get to the mnts about once a month, and I am not in the same shape I was 20yrs ago. I should probably look closer at Willey's and/or Shoestring gully, but the lore of the Tucks or Hunts is stong.  If you only get out once a month, you want to make it a good trip.  The beta I have read on Willeys and Shoestring are low angle ice climbs.  If I don't have any experience placing pro or leading, wouldn't I be better off on a true alpine snow climb? 

Offline T_Moon

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2006, 02:53:04 PM »
GRH -- I think you would find it helpful to spend some "one on one" time with a guide.  Explain what your goals are and they'll work with you.  A guide will also be able to help you honestly evaluate your skill level so you can choose your objectives wisely.
If you want to get to the peak, you ought to climb without giving it too much thought.

--Nietzsche

Offline GRH

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2006, 03:43:16 PM »
Ideally you are correct, but financially it not going to happen this year.  Over the past 3-4 yrs I have purchased alot of the basic gear and a lesson.  As we all know this stuff isn't cheap, one of two items a month and I have the most of the gear you need. I asked for advise and maybe hiring a guide is the best advise I can get.  My question was about placing pro on snow gullies, have you climbed in Hunts? Do you place pro or rope up on gullies like central? How many times have you hired professional guides and at what point did you learn by experience? I don't have the answers, that is why I posted in the beginner forum. Just trying to educate myself to make better decision out in the field.

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2006, 07:35:56 PM »
GRH

basically either I just solo Central, or rarely place a screw in the main ice bulge up if it's showing. on something like Damnation I place screws in the bulges to protect in case of ice dam blowout and a little rock gear on the right side where it presents itself. on Hillman's I just kick-step up & don't really even think about gear. I don't own any pickets, so I don't use them.

hth

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Offline tradmanclimbz

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2006, 08:19:07 PM »
It certainly depends on the year and conditions,  Every time i have been in south gully it was just snow and verey easy going. that was my usual unroped decent rt back when i used to go up in the ravines. central was allways very easy snow with a verry short section of ice. Of course it does depend on conditions. this year both those gullys may be pretty firm??? Don't let the naysayers scare you away. If you have been playing in the whites for 20yrs you should feel pretty comfortable above treeline? If that is the case I would say the south gully would be the easier interesting option. Use your head and don't go up any higher than you feel comfortable. If it is too firm for you or looks like water ice instead of snow then you should head back down BEFORE you get into trouble. You Should NOT venture on to any water ice solo untill you really feel strong and know that you know your stuff. That can happen if you practice and climb a LOT on ice down lower. You should also have some avalanch savy and err on the side of caution.

Offline T_Moon

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2006, 09:21:14 PM »
... I asked for advise and maybe hiring a guide is the best advise I can get...

I wasn't being flippant or trying to be a jerk by suggesting some time with a guide.  Although I've learned lots from books, videos, friends, etc. spending a few days with guides over the past few years has been very helpful.  I've learned some new techniques, gotten confirmation that I had solid grasp of the fundamentals and learned some self rescue skills.  There's always lots to learn and I think most people could benefit from a day out with a guide (so long as you make it clear you don't just want to get hauled up a route).

To answer your question:  Yes - I have been to Huntington.  I don't place pro on the approaches but do place screws and/or rock gear on the routes. 

Have fun.
If you want to get to the peak, you ought to climb without giving it too much thought.

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Offline tradmanclimbz

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2006, 07:43:20 AM »
Keep in mind that some pretty serious accidents have happened just in the fan below the gullys. It is often hard neve and once you get slideing on it it is hard to stop untill you hit the many boulders that stick up out of it. Never seen anyone rope up for the fan and if you had to I would assume that you were in over your head for going any higher. Many bad accidents happen on that kind of terrain from silly mistakes like tripping by snagging a crampon strap with your other crampon. You need to be suer footed and pay attention and know how to use your ax.  I do feel though that in good conditions south gully would just be a winter hike and not a technical climb. Plase correct me if I am wrong here. I haven't been up there in many years.

Offline GRH

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2006, 11:40:25 AM »
Thanks guys, I don't mean to come off abupt, email has that effect sometimes. I appreciate the advise and concerns.  If anyone has anything else to add feel free, the usefullness of any post depends on the content and number of replies.  So post and reply often.  Thanks again.

Offline tradmanclimbz

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2006, 04:23:05 PM »
This subject is tough because you want to encourage the OP to get out there and experience the insane joy of being up high on steep terrain but you would feel terrible if your advice got them killed.

DLottmann

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2006, 12:01:12 AM »
There's some good info here:

http://www.chauvinguides.com/selfrescue/alpinesnow.cfm

Also I just read a really good study on snow anchors... let me see if I can google it...

Here it is:

http://www.nzlsar.org.nz/specialist/SnowAnchors.pdf

If you haven't taken a Level 1 Avalanche course that would be my 1st step... It's less than $200 for 2 days and will give you a good foundation... even if it isn't directly related to protecting Alpine climbs, it is very relevent info for spending time in the Ravines...

Offline giggy

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Re: Protection on alpine climbs?
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2006, 08:58:59 AM »
hey there long time lurker - but finally registered. 

I have done both south and central, willeys, etc., etc..  -  I would be happy to head up there with you.  I am more of a "snow climber" and somewhat of a novice on ice, tho have spent a decent amount of time with guides, top-roping 4's, etc..  -   I have pickets (and know how to use them!!) , etc.....    I have done a few of the tucks gullies as well - 


email me -  we may have exchanged emails last year about getting together to top rope some stuff -  if your who I think you are - so lets make it happen!!