Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roberts Horn -- Alpine Style

Photo from
A couple days ago, Jason and I climbed the east face of Roberts Horn with skis on our back, and then hiked/skied off south face and out Primrose Cirque.  Roberts Horn is located in the Southern Wasatch and accessed via Provo Canyon and Aspen Grove. This year's thin snow conditions have resulted in fairly decent ice conditions.  We pitched out the waterfall staircase.  After that, route finding on limestone slab and thin snow and ice tested our level of commitment.  It took us 1.5 hrs to approach, 7.5 hrs to climb the face, and another 2.5 hrs to descend on skis.  (Apologies to Brothers Sam and Aaron who put us on to this, but because they are responsible citizens, couldn't go.)

Jason Dorais approaching the base of the climb.  That's about 4 pitches of fairly challenging (for us) ice climbing.
Old snow left from last year at the base of the climb.  As winter progresses, the ice fall will mostly fill in.  In fact, Ben Ditto and Matt Turley have skied the East Face of Roberts Horn in fat snow conditions.
Jason leading Pitch 1.
Me leading Pitch 2.  The ice was super cold and hard, making screw placements really really frustrating.  At the top of the bulge above, the ice gets thin.  I pulled over the top scratching madly on bare rock.  (Photo: Jason Dorais)
Jason on Pitch 3.  This was a short but fun pitch.  There isn't a picture of Pitch 4.  I started leading it, but tapped out and handed the rack to Jason who sent it.  After that, we had some debate about whether it is bad style to clip and hang on your tool to set a screw.  I say, who cares? 
Thin snow conditions were a concern.  We were wary of triggering a hard slab.  Or falling of rock slab.  That wouldn't have been fun.  After the fourth pitch, we simul-climbed, putting in half a screw where we could, and occasionally a pin.  For the most part, the placements were anti-textbook, but we figured they would be better than nothing.  And they gave us some level of comfort.
This is a picture of Jason topping out, finally.  We didn't take the most direct route up the face, always looking for the path of least resistance.  But that also created uncertainty as to whether we would eventually get dead ended.  It wasn't until we topped out that we were sure that we would see the top.  And when we did, it was 5:00 p.m. and getting dark fast.
Adding to the fun-ness of the day was our ski descent in the dark.  We called Brother Sam twice for directions on how to get down. On top of that was the fact that my water froze solid around 9:00 a.m. and I went pretty much until 7:30 pm without taking a sip.  If one criteria of alpine climbing is that at some point you wish you weren't there, then I can check that box off.  But that is also the very reason alpine climbing is fun.  Without the discomfort and challenge, that sense of accomplishment and the pleasure derived from climbing a mountain wouldn't be there.  And that would be worse than not drinking anything all day.