| Chasing Ice in October
Northstar Mountain 13,614'
Northstar M4X/WI3 - 3 Pitches
October 14th, 2013
Jason, Noah, Matt
This report is about an adventure that Jason, Noah and I had this past Friday. it was on the face of a 13er and does not go to the summit.
The route is at the center of the face near the bottom
This is what we do
Last week, Friday promised to be a snowy one and Noah and I figured we could swing a day off. We were heading to the desert for a big weekend, but I had been feeling guilty about not having gotten on any alpine ice or mixed routes in the prime of the season. With the ridiculous ice conditions that Colorado is now experienced, a rare route formed on the North Face of Northstar Mountain. It comes in roughly once a decade. As soon as Noah showed it to me I was hooked. Jason Maki joined us as a 3rd and we were are very stoked.
We left Vail before sunrise and met Jason in Frisco, we were a bit behind schedule but weren't expecting any crowds, the approach was short and the route was only a few pitches.
Hiking up the road
Just after leaving the road, a short trip through the woods
"For a mountaineer, the summit is never off route" - Gerry Roach
"Hey Noah, I haven't done Northstar, let's make a day of it and continue up."
We parked a bit before Blue Lakes. The wind was howling, it was snowing and cold. Noah donned the clown suit AND double boots. Hard to think it was October. Jason and I both chose Nepals. Before too long we were on our way down to the lake, across a very icy section, walking right through the water and then onto the road on the other side. That was fun, wasn't it? Time to get stoked for winter.
Noah midway up P1 (M4X)
Noah and Jason briefly flirted with the idea of going for an FA
As we hiked up the snowy talus, it became clear the direct start wasn't going to be in. The ice was thin (if you could call it ice) and the hanging dagger wasn't connected. We looked for a second then continued traversing right. All morning, a deep inset dihedral had occupied Noah and Jason and they were scheming for an FA attempt, though it was a long route and we didn't have the time. back to plan 1. We arrived at the base of the normal start, almost a full rope length of M4X. Fun stuff!!
"I don't find the R/X pitches...they find me" - Noah
Jason heading up the start of P1
Some people would call that a piton in moss....
He made quick work of the pitch, with his usual soundtrack. Jason provided a "belay." It was cold, and I was stoked to get going when Noah finally pulled up the ropes. What had started quickly had taken much longer than expected, but no matter...we were off. Jason went first and agreed to clean the gear. We climbed at the same time on half ropes. The climbing was fun on top rope, slabby snow covered rock with occasional jugs and some frozen turf to swing your tool into. We both continually commented on what a fine lead it had been and for the most part the climbing was great. Jason took a difficult traverse left about 2/3s of the way up (following Noah and likely the M4 crux) while I was able to motor straight up on easier terrain. We topped out onto a huge ledge and a goofy clown suit wearing belayer. A single bomber bolt on a boulder plus a few cams provided a solid anchor. The ice flow was now in full view....
An alpine beauty!!
At least the pro on P2 was good
Turf sticks ftw...Jason on P1
Jason and Noah were super nice and let me have the lead, being the resident n00b and all. I was grateful. I grabbed all the screws and screamers in sight and got psyched for my first lead of the season. Of course, Noah wasn't content waiting around, so he decided to solo next to me and get some shots. Sure mad me feel badass (yea right!) but such things are expected with Mr. McKelvin. My line likely went at 2+ and was around 60ft long. The ice was in great shape, kind of a cross between water and alpine, and I felt the screws were reliable. Noah and I met up and built a hanging ice screw anchor. Jason was really jazzed on it, let me tell you. By now we knew we were done for the day due to our desert plans and there was an anchor 30-40 feet left. Jason would get a lead, and a fitting one since he just loves.
Jason leads the traverse on P3, sure glad it wasn't me
After some cursing and discussions of bailing (Noah didn't bring the threader), he sucked it up and made a beautiful lead across steep ice to the anchors. Noah and I followed with some fun moments and then the 3 of us rappelled to the ground making two double rope raps. The hike out was enjoyable as I reflected on a great alpine day. I was sure ready for the sun in Utah.
Mt Quandry Peak!!!!!
Those are some nice views
What a difference a day makes...