Friday, December 9, 2011

12-5-2011 Roberts Horn Climb/Ski

Sam's beta photo
Sam and Aaron have been scouting Roberts Horn recently and kept talking about some ice flow that appeared to be coming in.  After hunting ice earlier this year I thought a big flow was unlikely, It wasn't until Sam's photo was passed around that I started to believe.

Jared on the approach
I picked Jared up at 6:15 and we reluctantly headed down to the County knowing that ridge tops would be hovering around 0 degrees.  The idea was to climb the ice on the East Face Roberts Horn with skis on our packs and then ski off the shoulder down into Primrose.  Parking at 7:30 we thought the cold would be the only hard part of the day. We geared up (Purposely leaving 2 headlamps in my car, no need right? We thought we'd be fast.) and skinned off to find the ice.  A few wrong turns and a short bushwhack had us reaching the base of the climb just as the sun started hitting it.  I won the draw of the first lead and was surprised with how much steeper the climbing felt than it looked.  Placing screws proved to be challenging all day. I'm not sure if it was due to my lack of skill, my cold hands, or Jared's unfamiliar screws, probably just my punterness. 
East Face of Roberts Horn, Photo by Jared Inouye 
Pitch 1, Photo by Jared Inouye
Pitch 2 is described by Mountainproject as a very thin ice smear rated WI? or a rock face rated 5.8.  We found nothing to match that, instead there was a slightly hollow flow that was vertical with a short band of thin ice on 75 degree rock.  Lucky for me it was Jared's lead.  I only heard a few curses as he unexpectedly came across the thinly covered rock section. It sounds like there was a bit of sketchiness/tools popping off as he pulled through the rock, good lead.
Jared sending pitch 2
Pitch 3 is described by MP as a low angle ice ramp.  Once again we encountered something completely different.  Pretty steep ice lead to a long snow ramp which led to another roped pitch (4) of vertical ice.  Pitch 4 proved to be hard for our skimo trained arms.  Both Jared and I were pumped out of our minds as we tried to protect it.  I ended up shamefully hanging to placed a screw after trying to start it for 5 minutes.  Oh the shame.
Pitch 3
After that, we figured the roped climbing was over and we'd just slog our way to the top.  Once again we were wrong.  Route finding was a little tricky as we had to snake around impassable (for us) features.  We pitched out or simul-climbed multiple sections.  Turns out this took a LONG time.  Every rock band we pulled over was followed by more rock/thin ice/punchy slabby snow.  Not knowing what was around every corner left us with doubt as to wether or not we'd be able to top out.  Luckily we did, hours later, just as the sun was setting.
Thin ice over limestone slab, fun?
Sunset on Robert's Horn
Our fun ski out turned into a moonlit survival ski session.  For some reason we found ourselves on top of several rather large cliffs when we tried to enter the top of Primrose.  Two phone calls later we were in the right spot (thanks Sam).  A few thousand feet of clickity clack and multiple core shots later we were at the car taking our first drinks of the day.  Not exactly how I saw the day going but all in all it was a good time.

P.S. We're having a friendly little Skimo Race tomorrow (12/10) at Brighton, 9AM.  It's going to be in the format of the Canadian Vert 180 race.  I think we'll make it a Vert 120 though.  See for details.  Be there. 

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