Tools of the Trade

It’s been a little over a year since I bought my new Nomics. So far, I don’t quite know if I’ve let them sit for anytime more then a week, yes, that includes summer. Now, they show a ton of abuse from the many swings I’ve made with them into gravel, choss, ice, and moss in desperation for the lack of protection. They have more abuse then other ice tools that have been used for a decade. I’ve seemed to have a new outlook into mixed climbing since I’ve gotten them. A sort of outlook where I see everlasting potential that many look past in search of the comfort of bolts. It feels overwhelming. So many new lines waiting to be done along with a few others waiting for that second ascent. Another sort of desire to do as many Figure 4’s and 9’s as possible before you simply cannot hold on anymore. To get strong and to get trained for the bigger places in the world.

In that type of climbing, it matters about your technique and strength, but most of all, it’s about your head game. That takes just as much work as getting the strength to climb such things.

For instance, over a week ago on a trip to Cody, WY, I stood at the base of the lean, overhanging Moonrise. A WI5 piece of ice when fat. When it forms many roofs, it can turn into WI6 rather quickly. What is WI6 for that matter?  I guess it’s when it’s unrelenting, overhanging, and usually has bad screws.

I talked to my partner Jay after we both soloed the first pitch. I knew the screws would be worthless for the most part with the thin ice and much air in the ice on other spots. I knew I could do it but it was the mental battle of knowing the protection would be grim on a lot of spots. I took the screws, and climbed the egg shell ice 10 feet to the base where it got really steep. I hooked my ice tools on a overhanging mushroom and went for it. The crux proved to be a big roof with virtually no feet and hooks that I wished were better above a tipped out screw that hit a few air pockets on the way in. Finally a bomber screw came when it eased off at the top, funny how that works. I got to the belay in excitement. I was super happy with how good the pitch was but I was more happy with have the mental head space to go for it. After a few more pitches, Jay went for the Pillar of Pain taking the harder left side with a 5 foot roof to negotiate. I watched as he went for it and committed to the hanging dagger that had slushy hooks. After a few more bombers screws, he reached the top. I followed quickly, with the left side feeling much harder then any WI5 I’ve been on in Cody.

Sometimes though, there is more to it then climbing. Sometimes you can be so focused on just the climb, you forget all the other dangers that come with ice climbing. We started packing up when all of sudden “WHOOSH!!” A microwave sized rock flew right over the Pillar of Pain onto the exact spot I was belaying from. Jay and I looked at each other, and ten seconds later, “CRACK!!”……..”BOOM!!”

We run into the cave further and look in horror as the gully a 100 feet to climbers left of the Pillar of Pain take out almost the whole gully we just climbed up. Feeling vulnerable to say the least. An hour earlier or later and that thing might of hit us. A very wet slide.

We try to find another way down the rib but it cliffs out. We move fast down the avy path. We rappel tree to tree, making sure to always stay on the rope. Soon we were at the bottom.

As I was packing up, I started thinking about people I knew that have died in the mountains. I though of my good friend Kevin Hayne, that fell to his death on a peak in CO that is really just a scramble. It was an all of sudden occurrence that changed my normal day into a nightmare. That’s life. When the road get hard, the tough keep going. I zipped up my pack along with another experience and we raced back to the car.

“The more ‘good fights’ a climber has had, the richer he becomes” Harvey Carter

P1

Jay soloing P1

P2a

Moonrise crux

P2b

P3a

P3

P4

P4

P5

Jay on the Pillar of Pain

P3

Avy debris on the way down

P5a

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About Noah McKelvin

Never skip a day of living life
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2 Responses to Tools of the Trade

  1. keithnoback says:

    I wondered who left those screw-holes in the left hand line on the Pillar. That was the most slide debris that I have eve seen in the little gully. The sobering part is that I use that frequently to bypass the tedious downclimb of the little step in the main gully – maybe not anymore, especially if there is any substantial snow around.

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