Addicted to the “Game”

The mountains are calling….I must go.

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Some of my best moments in climbing have been out by myself. You only are responsible for yourself and not for anyone else. Ever since I started climbing, going solo in whatever way has been a part of me, if you should say. Staying away from the crowds and pushing myself as a climber. I kind of need it every once in a while. I like to challenge myself and I learn more about myself then anything else in these experiences. I hate following society’s way so maybe that’s why I’m a rebel against society, maybe that’s why climbing fits me.

Image #2: Attempting winter ascent of a route on LongsAttempting winter ascent of a route on LongsView Larger Image

My obsession with climbing never goes away. Whenever I’m not climbing, all I can do or research is other mountains or routes around the world. Sometimes I wonder deeply where it’s taking me and sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. It’s not normal but it’s better then doing drugs. All I know is that deep in my heart, it’s what I was made for.

Image #3: Route follows center ice to McHenry's Peak in the backRoute follows center ice to McHenry’s Peak in the backView Larger Image

I had been wanting to do the Grade V link up of the ice route West Gully above Black lake in RMNP to the Right Gully on McHenry’s Peak. I thought it would be a challenging day out by myself with lots of scrappy climbing along with some ice. I packed the rope and gear to rope solo the crux M5ish pitch on Right Gully and planned to third class all the ice and more moderate mixed terrain above. Sleeping is hard before a big climb. The whole day was playing out in my head, pitch by pitch. But soon….

“BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP,” the alarm rang right in my ear at 2 A.M.

‘Oh shut up! I could just stay in bed and sleep in,” I mutter as if the alarm clock hears me.

I get on my clothes and head out with my pack, hoping that the only money I have will give me enough gas for there and back.

Image #4: West GullyWest GullyView Larger Image

I arrive at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead with not one car around and start on the trail around 4:30 A.M. The breeze makes the tree’s sway making a creaking sound. I continue on arriving at Mills Lake. I walked around the Lake fearing breaking through the ice with all these warm temperatures. The trail then took me straight over Jewels Lake. Then navigation past all the dead fall had to be made before I arrived at Black Lake at sunrise.

Image #5: AmazingAmazingView Larger Image

This is why I do this! A beautiful glow cast in the sky. I started walking straight across Black Lake which was pretty frozen, so I thought. Cracking sounds started to be made. I rushed to the side and got off the lake.

Come on Noah, be smart, don’t do anything dumb.

I got to the base of West Gully and pondered.

This looks really wet. Maybe I should just head back to the trailhead.

It’s the fear that always bubbles up inside my head. I push it away. I come in contact with my senses constantly knowing which senses I should listen to and which ones I need to ignore.

Image #6: Endless ice slabsEndless ice slabsView Larger Image


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Image #8: McHenry's Peak with intended line up the right side of faceMcHenry’s Peak with intended line up the right side of faceView Larger Image

I flake out the tag line rope I brought as it’s better tagging it then carrying it and up I go. It was a shower and then some. On the crux, some stemming between the rock and ice was made until I was presented with the top two pitches, WI2+ slabs that went on forever pumping your calves out. Good exposure. I was sure I was the last ascent of the season. All this warm weather is melting all this ice and all the mixed climbing is rock climbing right now. Sad day.

After topping out, I realized some recent slides had come down McHenry’s. It was just too hot already for conditions to be safe. Since Right Gully includes a lot of snow climbing as well, I opted for Stone mans pass. I continued on Class 4 and low 5th class ridge to the summit.

Image #9: Looking down at some of the scrambling near the summitLooking down at some of the scrambling near the summitView Larger Image


Image #10: NICE!NICE!View Larger Image


Image #11: SummitSummitView Larger Image

I laid down in the sun thinking about life. What a great experience. No one anywhere near me. I had been wanting this peak for a while. I soon descended along with a rappel and steep snow down climbing to get off West Gully. Soon I was approached with many on the trail. I got back to the car after around 9 or 10 hours. I usually want to kill myself walking back to the car, after a day in the park. This time I felt good the whole way with no problems.

Image #12: Amazing viewAmazing viewView Larger Image


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Sometimes the mountains call and you must go. So what are you waiting for?

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About Noah McKelvin

Never skip a day of living life
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