Mermoz

“And yet we all have known flights when, of a sudden, each for himself, it has seemed to us that we have crossed the border of the world of reality… Where there has come premonition of an incursion into a forbidden world whence it was going to be infinitely difficult to return.

Thus, when Mermoz first crossed the South Atlantic in a hydroplane, as day was dying he ran foul of the Black Hole region, off Africa. Straight ahead of him were the tails of tornadoes rising minute by minute gradually higher, rising as a wall is built; and then the night came down upon these preliminaries and swallowed them up; and when, an hour later, he slipped under the clouds, he came out into a fantastic kingdom.

mermoz

Great black waterspouts had reared themselves seemingly in the immobility of temple pillars. Swollen at their tops, they were supporting the squat and lowering arch of the tempest, but through the rifts in the arch there fell slabs of light and the full moon sent her radiant beams between the pillars down upon the frozen tiles of the sea.

 Through these uninhabited ruins Mermoz made his way, gliding slantwise from one channel of light to the next, circling round those giant pillars in which there must have rumbled the upsurge of the sea, flying for four hours through these corridors of moonlight toward the exit from the temple. And this spectacle was so overwhelming that only after he had got through the Black Hole did Mermoz awaken to the fact that he had not been afraid.”

-Antoine de Saint Exupery, Wind Sand and Stars, 1939

As with my last post about Guillamet, I’ve excerpted a bit of this wonderful little book. I’m not sure what message I’m trying to convey with this passage, mostly I just want to share something beautiful. I can’t sufficiently praise this memoir, which remembers a lifetime of adventure and friendship in a style both haunting and celebratory. May we all lead lives so rich, and leave behind a memorial so timeless.

Jean Mermoz, the subject of the above passage and the namesake of a mountain in Argentine Patagonia, was a French aviator who lived from 1901 to 1936. He pioneered many air routes in Argentina and Chile, and is remember as one of the leading pilots of his era. Along with four crewmen, he was lost while crossing the Atlantic between Senegal and Brazil.

In the story that follows, Graham Zimmerman and I climb the Argentina Route on Aguja Mermoz. I instinctively want to make some self-deprecating comment here, about how our little adventures pale in comparison to the real explorers of days past. But I’ll refrain for now, and simply note that experience is subjective; there’s no objective metric of “adventure”; and anytime we set out to map the frontiers of our own abilities, we do so with the smiling support of our predecessors.

———————

Graham and I called it quits on our single-push attempt on Fitz Roy, twenty minutes after leaving basecamp.

We’d left our tent in pre-dawn darkness, but instead of the refreshing bite of crisp night air, we set out through a strangely warm, almost soupy, atmosphere. Stepping off the bedrock of camp, onto the Guillamet Glacier, we sank into mashed-potato snow.

bw predawn

After gamely slogging a few hundred meters, we stopped to reconsider our plans. Ambitiously, we had dreamt of a long push up the California route on Fitz Roy. This would require much walking on the horrible snow, however, and the warm conditions might present objective hazards. We grudgingly decided not to fight with reality, and (in true Graham Z fashion) “re-stoked” for another objective: the Argentina Route on Aguja Mermoz.

Familiar with this zone, having climbed on the West Face of Guillamet a week earlier, we opted to use the Geordani Ridge to access the West Face of Mermoz. See my previous post about the various approaching options in the area.

bw5
bw giordani ridge

“Do you think the Wall of Hate is coming towards us?” Graham asked as we hung at a belay, a few pitches up Mermoz. To the west, thick clouds did indeed obscure our view of the next range and the icecap beyond. “I dunno, I’ll shoot some photos while you climb,” I answer, eager to see Graham off on the next pitch. I lined up Aguja Pollone in my viewfinder and snapped a shot. Thirty minutes later, as Graham neared the end of his lead, I framed the same shot and snapped again. Comparing the two, it didn’t look like the wall of clouds was advancing. Rather, it swirled and condensed, perhaps driven by the respiration of the Earth itself.

It seems to be a universal human proclivity, the attribution of emotion to non-human entities. We looked west and saw intention in those masses of water vapor; malevolence in the meteorology. Like all biases and blindspots, these tell us more about ourselves than the forces we stubbornly anthropomorphize.

bw pollone

Upwards we crawled, tracing narrow snow ramps and icy steps. Luckily, the frozen conditions held the loose and weathered rock together.

bw3 bw2

Higher, we swapped boots for climbing shoes and delicately navigated up a complex of flakes and cracks. Not having any beta on this route, we relied on old pitons to keep us on track.

bw4

Bw graham leading corner

bw piton
bw profile
As we gained the summit ridge, the clouds broke. The rock firmed up, and we rode the clean crest of this granite wave in high spirits.

bw graham on ridge bw ridge ridin

From the summit, Fitz Roy appeared briefly through the clouds. It seemed absurd that something so massive could come in and out of view so rapidly.

bw fitz

bw summit shot

While descending, we of course congratulated ourselves for “listening to the gods” and making the smart decision to bail on the Fitz Roy plan, accepting a smaller objective for a shallower weather window. Consciously, I know that the climate is a deterministic, insentient system; it’s rules are complex, but theoretically knowable. The ways in which our subconscious interprets our environment, however, draw on powers of observation and wisdom that are sometimes inaccessible to our conscious mind. These subconscious impressions are often communicated through emotion and feeling. It is not, therefore, irrational to have a reverence and respect for the “spirits” of nature, be they gods, ghosts, or Gaia herself. What we are truly acknowledging is the collective wisdom of ourselves and our ancestors, expressed though our common language of wonderment.

——————————–

Huge congratulations to Graham Zimmerman and Mark Allen for their nomination for the 2013 Piolet d’Or! This is highest honor that we alpinists can bestow on our peers, and these fine gentleman are truly deserving. Good luck in France!!

My ideas about the conscious and subconscious, and the communication between the two, come in large part from the book “Incognito”, by neuroscientist David Eagleman. I highly recommend it.

Finally, I want to close this post by mentioning the late great Chad Kellogg. For all of us that dream and aspire, you were an inspiration. You will be remembered… you will be missed. There are many tributes out there, written by folks who knew Chad better than I did. Here’s a short but evocative memory from my friend Blake Herrington.

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Bossanova

“I once read, Guillamet, a tale in which your adventures were celebrated. I have an old score to settle with the infidel who wrote it. You were described as abounding with the witty sallies of the street Arab, as if courage consisted in demeaning oneself to school banter in the midst of danger and the hour of death. The man did not know you, Guillamet! You never felt the need of cheapening your adversaries before confronting them. When you saw a foul storm you said to yourself, ‘Here is a foul storm.’ You accepted it, and you took its measure.”

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Wind Sand and Stars

Exupery and Guillamet in Argentina, 1930.

Exupery and Guillamet in Argentina, 1930.

W Face Guill, potential
On the northern end of the Chaltén massif, the ultimate granite peak, before the range transitions to less coherent rock, is known as Aguja Guillamet. Named for the pilot Henri Guillamet, this peak is dwarfed by its southern neighbors, but it offers fantastic granite and plentiful opportunity for first ascents. All that, and one of the shortest approaches in the range, I don’t know why it doesn’t see more attention! The steep and clean West face was the site of my first ever new route, Las Vent’uras, with Blake Herrington in 2011. In 2012, I returned with Cheyne Lempe and established the first free route on the face, Manos al Cielo. While enjoying the gorgeous handcracks of that route, I looked right and spotted another line of perfect orange dihedrals and splitters.

During the past two years, I’ve shared the photo at right with many fellow climbers, encouraging all of them give it a go. Despite my best efforts, though, when I arrived this season this plum was still unpicked. It was not hard to convince Graham that we should hike up there and put in a proper effort!

On the morning of December 5th, Graham and I left camp pre-dawn and cramponed up steep snow to a pass on the lower Northwest ridge of Aguja Guillamet. On the other side, we made a long, rising traverse across a snowfield to reach the right side of the West Face of Guillamet. A note on this approach: in good conditions it goes quickly, and aluminum strap-on crampons, sneakers, and one light axe per climber is sufficient. A few days later, however, we would return to this approach to attempt the West Face of Mermoz and found the snow to be very thin and poorly bonded to the rock slab beneath. Fearing avalanches, we opted for a higher approach. See the photos below for beta on the higher and lower approach options.

Approach options for Bossanova, Manos al Cielo, Argentina Route on Mermoz, etc. The Yellow line is the lower NW ridge of Guillamet (the Geordani Ridge). This photo was taken in very dry conditions, the lower approach is often completely snow in early season. The higher approach involves one 30m rappel, down a small spur on the W Face.

Approach options for Bossanova, Manos al Cielo, Argentina Route on Mermoz, etc. The Yellow line is the lower NW ridge of Guillamet (the Geordani Ridge). This photo was taken in very dry conditions, the lower approach is often completely snow in early season. The higher approach involves one 30m rappel, down a small spur on the W Face.

A photo from Piedras Negras basecamp, again showing the NW (Geordani) Ridge in yellow, and the higher and lower approach options for the W Face.

A photo from Piedras Negras basecamp, again showing the NW (Geordani) Ridge in yellow, and the higher and lower approach options for the W Face.

Starting a few meters to the right of “Manos”, I led up a shallow dihedral. Ensconsed in a much larger chimney system, this section of the face sees little sun, allowing snow and ice to persist in the cracks after everything higher has already been cleaned. There was nothing to do but embrace the screaming barfies and jam the frigid cracks, but I was relieved to find a perfect belay ledge just 40m up, and happily stopped our “warm-up” pitch short. From here to the summit ridge, I would use our 80m 9.2mm Edelweiss rope to full advantage, running the next pitches to at least 75m each.

more guill beta

The right side of the West Face of Guillamet, with “Manos al Cielo” in red and “Bossanova” in yellow.

guill beta photo

The starts of “Manos” and “Bossanova”, again in red and yellow respectively. “Manos” continues up the obvious system.

Bossanova p1

Looking down the first pitch of Bossanova.

The third pitch was the key to accessing the beautiful corner systems. I traversed to the right across four smaller dihedrals, with each transition involving some funky and challenging climbing. On more than one occasion, a blind reach was rewarded with a miracle flake or crimp!

Looking back down the third pitch, which transferred across four small dihedrals to reach the main one.

Looking back down the third pitch.

Another plum, or perhaps a watermelon, awaiting a motivated climber. This 80+m splitter is on the south wall of the big dihedral system between "Manos" and "Bossanova".

Another plum, or perhaps a watermelon, awaiting a motivated climber. This 100+ meter splitter is on the south wall of the big dihedral system between “Manos” and “Bossanova”.

Entering the promised corner, a sense of fear came over me. Though I’d been thinking about this route for two years, I didn’t know quite what size the viciously sustained steep crack would offer. I had brought a triple set of #0.5 to #1 Camalots, picturing unrelenting big-fingers and thin-hands. In this size, I would likely be unable to find good jams with my fat hands, and would be forced to lay-back precariously.

graham jugging p4

But, climbing higher on the next two pitches, I found amazing hand cracks!! Yeehaw!!!!

Graham was feeling a bit under the weather all day, and graciously allowed me to lead every pitch while he followed or jugged with the backpack. What a hero!

graham putting bolt

At a belay in the main dihedral, we lacked sufficient cams to both build a belay and protect the next. We placed one 3/8″ x 1.75″ bolt.

 

The upper pitches, where I thought the climbing would ease, actually proved to be the crux. A steep, and slightly offset, #0.5-0.75 camalot sized crack proved too much for me to freeclimb at the end of the day, and I gladly aided through a few sections.

crux pitch2 crux pitch

Higher still, I battled a tight squeeze chimney. After removing my helmet, jacket, and all the other extraneous junk on my harness, I managed to squeeze back in far enough to lasso a wedged chockstone. Tensioning off this, I freed my self from the chimney and bypassed a super-tight offwidth nightmare.

With the final squeeze lead, we gained the ridge to the summit, and enjoyed an amazing sunset as we tagged the top and began our descent.

care bear

scott and graham

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Las Ventanitas

The Solstice of the Austral Summer has come and passed, but if not for the 18 hour days I might not have noticed. It has not felt particularly summer-like here in El Chalten, Patagonia. This has not, of course, dampened the spirits of the many climbers that call this place home for a few months every year. From Northern Argentina to Northern Norway, Alpinists feel the draw of the Chalten and Torre ranges, and the notoriously… difficult… climate only adds to the mystique.

While we have all enjoyed a few beautiful years in the last few, most knew that ten-day weather windows of splitter blue skies were an aberration. In this 2013-14 season, the weather has seemingly regressed to the mean, and we’ve had a smattering of one to one and a half day windows, las ventanitas, often with high winds and storms threatening from across the ice cap. These conditions put a premium on local knowledge, in order to pick the correct objective and nail the timing.

After six awesome weeks in Chalten, I’ve changed venues and am about to hike into the Bader Valley in Torres del Paine National Park. So, in this intermission, I’ll give a little rundown of the season so far, ventanita by ventanita, and give thanks to all of the amazing folk with whom I had the privilege of climbing, and let you all know about some amazing new routes!!

Graham Zimmerman bouldering just outside of town.

Graham Zimmerman bouldering just outside of town.

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Arriving in Chalten

Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires

El Chalten

El Chalten

Joel Kauffman lowering off a sport climb at La Platea, about 8km up the Rio de las Vueltas from town.

Joel Kauffman lowering off a sport climb at La Platea, about 8km up the Rio de las Vueltas from town.

Graham Zimmerman dons his 'pons, on approach to the Stanhardt Col.

Graham Zimmerman dons his ‘pons, on approach to the Stanhardt Col.

Approaching the Stanhardt Col at sunrise.

Approaching the Stanhardt Col at sunrise.

Graham following the first pitch of Exocet, on Aguja Stanhardt. We bailed a few pitches later in very strong cold winds. We will be back in the Torres soon!

Graham following the first pitch of Exocet, on Aguja Stanhardt. We bailed a few pitches later in very strong cold winds. We will be back in the Torres soon!

Our neighbors, Jan Peter and Walter, celebrating a successful ascent of Fitzroy's Supercanaleta.

Our neighbors, Jan Peter and Walter, celebrating a successful ascent of Fitzroy’s Supercanaleta.

Perrito

Perrito

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Smear of Fear

One benefit of the 2013 flood: fat ice in the mountains!

ice in the clouds

Word got around quickly here on the Front Range. Local superhero Topher Donahue was ahead of the curve on September 30th, hiking up to Long’s Peak to nab an early season ascent of the Smear of Fear. In a blog post, he lamented the fact that, adding insult to the injury of the flood, the Government Shutdown would prevent climbers from enjoying the one benefit of our historically wet season.

Some daring climbers ran the blockade and climbed anyway, but rumors quickly spread of aggressive rangers camped out on the trail, looking to bust climbers. In addition to the normal risks of winter climbing, the prospect of Federal trespassing charges dissuaded most.

Men with guns don't want you to climb. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Men with guns don’t want you to climb. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

So, when the Colorado state government put up the cash ($40k/day!!) to reopen the park, Front Range ice climbers quickly sharpened their tools.

all mtn

Yesterday, Rob Coppolillo and I hiked up to climb the Smear. One of the most ephemeral, and notorious, ice climbs on the Front Range, the Smear follows a thin ribbon of ice plastered to blank granite on the Lower East Face of Long’s Peak.

Rob approaching. The Smear of Fear is the leftmost of the prominent ice lines.

Rob approaching. The Smear of Fear is the leftmost of the prominent ice lines.

A huge spindrift avalanche sweeps the Lower East Face. We were blasted all day by these harmless, but scary, deluges.

A huge spindrift avalanche sweeps the Lower East Face. We were blasted all day by these harmless, but scary, deluges.

We managed to climb the first three pitches, including the crux WI5 R pitches, but bailed below the final WI4 pitch as darkness encroached. The leads were at the limit of my comfort zone, with the ice often too thin to accept screws. That, combined with our leisurely late start, left us hiking out in the dark.

Rob at the base.

Rob at the base.

Rob leading the first pitch.

Rob leading the first pitch.

pitch 1

Another of P1, ‘cuz it’s so pretty!

pitch 2

Me leading the crux second pitch.

Hanging belay atop P2.

Hanging belay atop P2.

Rob following P3.

Rob following P3.

Rapping

Rapping

Selfy while rappeling

Selfy while rappeling

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From the Goldrun Junction towards Wall Street

I went on a hike up Fourmile Canyon, past the junction with Gold Run, towards Wall Street. I was impressed both by the natural destruction, and also by the human energy going into recovery. I’ll show some photos in this post, and I’ll try to give location info. This post won’t be as detailed as the previous few, though, as my GPS enabled camera broke, so I borrowed my girlfriend’s old SLR.

Also, I don’t want to be too invasive or voyeuristic, so I won’t post many photos of houses. I do have lots of these photos, so if you live up there and want to see conditions, email me at Scottbennett08@gmail.com

First, though, a bear:

Our front porch.

Our front porch.

Though we’ve frequently seen bears in our yard, I’d never seen them on our porch until the past week. This one has been hanging around and getting nosy. Our neighbor, who works for OSMP, speculates that they’re stressed because they’re trying to put on fat for the winter. Berries, which often grow low in drainages, have been severely damaged, so we’re likely to see bears getting bolder and more creative. Everyone, both in the mountains and in town, needs to secure their homes and trash to prevent bears from becoming habituated to human food.

Here are a few photos:
_MG_5608

IMG_5616

This is about a half mile below the Fourmile/Goldrun Junction, at:
40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W

You can see the last post for more photos of this area.

This worker is deepening the channel and building back up the roadbed. Impressive!

leaning house 1 P1050988

This house, tragically, seems to be a victim of the creek’s new path. These photos were taken 2.5 hours apart, at 1:30pm and 4pm on 9.18.13. As you can see the house is slowly being undercut.

A small example of the flood's power.

A small example of the flood’s power.

Just up Fourmile from the junction.

Just up Fourmile from the junction.

clay hiking

A typical example of the road. There are many small streams cutting across the roadbed, and in some spots we had to hike up and around flooded sections.

firehouse

The firestation seems untouched.

narrow road

A narrow section of road just upcanyon from the firestation.

xcel

This little ATV carried a 6 man Xcel team into Wall Street. The road is cut off both and up and down canyon, but they managed to get over from Gold Hill on an old mining road. They were hard at work righting fallen power poles and restoring electricity.

assay

The Assay office/museum seems untouched.

old mine

This old gold-refining structure has been there for over 100 years, so I guess it’s survived more than a few floods.

long road

propane

Propane tanks were frequent casualties, and I actually spoke with a resident who claims to have watched one explode during the flood. Cuidado!!

A big mudslide, right at 5574 Fourmile Canyon dr.

A big mudslide, right at 5574 Fourmile Canyon dr.

OK, that’s all for now. As I said, I know mountain folks value their privacy, so I didn’t post many photos of homes. I have some pictures from 5161, 5216, 5311 5853, email me at scottbennett08@gmail.com if you live there.

Road conditions: Fourmile Canyon drive is passable to high-clearance vehicles all the way to the Goldrun/Fourmile junction. It remains closed, though.

Past the junction, both Fourmile and Gold Run are impassable. I’ve heard that it’s possible to access Sunset from Gold Hill, via the Switzerland Trail. Once in the canyon, a high-clearance vehicle can supposedly make it downcanyon to mile marker 8.

This is all opinion and speculation, and conditions are changing daily. Use your own judgement and travel at your own risk.

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Road repair beginning

I hiked up to the Goldrun/Fourmile Junction on the evening of the 15th, and again last night (the 16th). I was amazed to see that significant road repairs had already been started in a few spots!!

It wasn’t clear to me whether the work had been done by the county, or just residents. I saw some rental equipment, and have heard that the residents around there are extremely resourceful.

Also, the road is definitely NOT SAFE and NOT OPEN! Please do not try to drive there. The repairs appear to be improvised measures to allow for limited access to homes.

Here are a couple before/after photos of the damage on the 15th and the repairs on the 16th.

It looks like here, and in another spot up canyon, work has been done to remove the undercut, overhanging chunks of asphalt. This is great, as they won’t fall off and pollute the stream.

40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W

first damage

40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W on 9.15.13

40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W on 9.16.13

40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W on 9.16.13

————————————-

In this next spot, the road was completely swept away. I thought it would take weeks to fix. But, sure enough, there’s a crude gravel bridge in place now. WOW!

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W:

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W on 9.15.13

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W on 9.15.13

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W on 9.16.13

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W on 9.16.13

Some heavy equipment, presumably rented by the residents here.

Some heavy equipment, presumably rented by the residents here.

——————————

40° 2’59.66″N 105°22’4.42″W

Again, here one lane has been made passable, and some of the overhanging asphalt has been removed.

IMG_1564

40° 2’59.66″N 105°22’4.42″W on 9.15.13

_MG_5529

40° 2’59.66″N 105°22’4.42″W on 9.16.13


—————————–

OK, just wanted to update everyone on the impressive and fast work being done. Again, the road is NOT OPEN OR SAFE, please don’t travel there.

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Fourmile flood photo survey: Logan Mill to Gold Run

In my last post, I looked at the flood damage to lower Fourmile Canyon, between Poorman Rd and the “Smokey the Bear” fire danger sign (approx. 0.8 miles from Boulder Canyon Hwy 119).

This post is a survey of the flood damage higher in the canyon, between Logan Mill Rd. and Gold Run Rd. All photos were shot between 6 and 7pm on 9.15.13.

waterfall

First, I’ll say that I found Fourmile Canyon Drive to be intact and passable from Poorman Rd. (where I live) up past Logan Mill Rd. on the evening of 9.15.13. This does not mean that it will remain that way, or that it’s safe to travel there. There’s the constant threat of further flooding, as well as rockfall. I don’t recommend travelling anywhere in Fourmile Canyon. Logan Mill Rd is inaccessible, as the bridge there has failed.

Access to Fourmile Canyon is only possible via Sunshine Canyon and Poorman Rd. There are a few damaged spots on both of these roads, and they are restricted to residents and emergency vehicles.

overview upper fourmile

upper map

About 0.5 Miles past Logan Mill Rd, near 4367 Fourmile Canyon Dr, the road is washed out and impassable to vehicle traffic. This is at 40° 2’50.22″N 105°22’2.18″W

upper fourmile pano1

first damage

The first road damage encountered when driving up canyon from Poorman.

downed bridge

This bridge accesses 4367 and 4369 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

The first damage is just below these mailboxes.

The first damage is just below these mailboxes.

Looking back down canyon at the first damaged spot.

Looking back down canyon at the first damaged spot.

The second damaged section of road is just around the bend at:

40° 2’54.45″N 105°22’4.59″W

It’s below 4451 Fourmile Canyon Drive.

The second damaged section. The road is completely gone.

The second damaged section. The road is completely gone.

Same spot.

Same spot.

Looking back down canyon at the second damaged spot.

Looking back down canyon at the second damaged spot.

The second damaged spot is just below 4451 Fourmile Canyon Dr. and this house, 4472 I think.

The second damaged spot is just below 4451 Fourmile Canyon Dr. and this house, 4472 I think.

The driveway to 4472.

The driveway to 4472.

The third damaged section is just up the road at:
40° 2’59.66″N 105°22’4.42″W

The third damaged section.

The third damaged section.

Same spot. This entire section of pavement appears to be detached.

Same spot. This entire section of pavement appears to be detached.

An undercut section at  40° 3'0.32"N 105°22'7.01"W

An undercut section at 40° 3’0.32″N 105°22’7.01″W

The next damaged section starts at:
40° 3’3.41″N 105°22’13.63″W
Just below 4726 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

This 250 meter section, to the junction of Fourmile Canyon Drive and Goldrun Road, is almost completely destroyed and barely passable, even on foot. Travel here is definitely not advised.

fourth damaged spot

pano 2

Mailbox for 4726 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

Mailbox for 4726 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

IMG_1588

There's no road here.  40° 3'3.08"N 105°22'16.87"W

There’s no road here.
40° 3’3.08″N 105°22’16.87″W

Looking back down canyon at the same spot.

Looking back down canyon at the same spot.

Coming around the corner to the junction of Fourmile and Goldrun, I was shocked. This little crossroads was a beautiful little cluster of homes. I can only hope that nobody was hurt when the water came through.

goldrun pano2

goldrun pano

collapsed

Looking up Gold Run rd. towards Gold Hill.

Looking up Gold Run rd. towards Gold Hill.

Again, please contact me at scottbennett08@gmail.com if you have any questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information on missing people, please contact the Sheriff.

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After the flood

UPDATE: I just posted another set of photos, this time of Fourmile between Logan Mill and Gold Run.

This post is a survey of flood damage in lower Fourmile canyon, between Poorman road and “Smokey the Bear”

The last few days have been intense living up in Fourmile Canyon. Over 7″ of rain on the night of 9.12.13 caused major flooding. Mudslides, from the 2011 burn scars up canyon, scoured the channel of Fourmile Canyon Creek.

puzzle pieces

One of the only pieces of trash I found in the flood debris, fittingly. Good job, neighbors, for keeping fourmile clean!

fireman boy

Father and son on the southwest side of the creek, near Smokey the bear.

This morning (9.14.13), between 8:45am and 9:45am, I walked down canyon from our house, which is located at the junction of Poorman and Fourmile. Staying mostly on the northeast side of the road and creek, I surveyed the flood damage on the road. I stopped at the “Smokey the Bear” fire danger sign, which is approximately 0.8 miles from Boulder Canyon (hwy 119). In this one mile, I saw many spots where the road was completely washed out, undercut, or flowing with water. Below is a series of photos, tagged with the GPS coordinates. They start near Poorman, and end at Smokey.

I spoke with a few residents who told me that, below the Smokey sign, Fourmile road was mostly undamaged, with just some debris on the road. If true, this means that the stretch between Poorman and Smokey is the worst section in the lower canyon. Above is passable via Poorman, and below is accessible from Boulder Canyon (if hwy 119 is open).

If you are resident of Fourmile, or just interested in more detailed photos, please email me and I’ll try to help. I have hundreds of photos of this stretch of canyon, all tagged with Lat/long. Scottbennett08@gmail.com

overview map 2

Overview map

location 1

pano 1

Looking upcanyon at the water on the road. This location had the greatest amount of water still over the road, so it was difficult to guess how much damage was done to the road itself.

flipped truck pano

That looks like a classic truck! Note the road is in the foreground, completely covered by water.

truck

looking down from loc 1

Looking downcanyon from N 40 1′ 48.4″ W 105 20′ 25.8″

fourmile pano

A panorama from same.

loc 3

IMG_1331

This was on of the worst undercuts, with almost the entire road surface gone.

biggest undercut

IMG_1344

IMG_1449

1267 map

IMG_1348

40 1′ 36.4″N 105 20′ 16.2″W
Just downcanyon from 1267 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

IMG_1350

IMG_1353

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Bridge at 1175 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

I think this house is 1175 Fourmile Canyon Dr.  40° 1'34.82"N 105°20'14.36"W

I think this house is 1175 Fourmile Canyon Dr.
40° 1’34.82″N 105°20’14.36″W

This house barely survived.

This house barely survived. Not sure the address, but very near 1107 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

Same house.

Same house.

In front of that house.

In front of that house.

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The driveway bridge at 1107 Fourmile Canyon Dr.

This couple, and their pup, were on the southwest (wrong) side of the creek. They did find a bridge, though, and (I think) hiked successfully into town.

This couple, and their pup, were on the southwest (wrong) side of the creek. They did find a bridge, though, and (I think) hiked successfully into town.

Hikers on their way

Hikers on their way

map 4

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Taken from : N 40deg 1' 30.7"  W 105deg 20' 7.6"

Taken from :
N 40deg 1′ 30.7″ W 105deg 20′ 7.6″

Scary propane tank!!

Scary propane tank!!

Just downcanyon from the propane tank. Mailbox for  1033 Fourmile Rd. on the right.

Just downcanyon from the propane tank. Mailbox for 1033 Fourmile Canyon Dr. on the right.

A paper-thin piece of asphalt.

A paper-thin piece of asphalt.
40° 1’31.08″N 105°20’5.26″W

Don't get on the bus!!

Don’t get on the bus!!

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A surviving bridge!

A surviving bridge!

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East Buttress of the Angel

Angel from glacier

revs stitchGraham and I have just returned to Talkeetna after spending a fun-filled ten days in the Revelation mountains. This remote range, on the far southwest end of the Alaska range, has been visited a few times in Spring season, and climbers have returned with stories of amazingly huge mixed lines and perfect “J-tree” white granite. We had found almost no information on summertime rock climbing activity in the range, so we were excited to make a reconnaissance mission and see what these mountains could offer.

We flew in with Talkeetna Air Taxi on their new R44 Helicopter piloted by Will Boardman. Lack of snow for a ski-plane landing made the helicopter essential, so we’re very thankful to Will and TAT for their help. It should be mentioned that landing a helicopter in Denali National Park is illegal, but the Revelations are outside of the park. It was TAT’s first helicopter insertion for a climbing trip.

inside heli

During the hour and a half ride into the range, during which we saw no roads and few signs of human life, we got a visceral feel for the scale and isolation of Alaska. Once the drone of the chopper faded, and Graham and I were left on the glacier with our gear, we’d entered our own little mountain kingdom, sole rulers and inhabitants.

Once we had gotten a feel for our realm, we realized that we were camped directly underneath the most enticing objective: the East Buttress of the Angel!

We began climbing on July 13th, starting up a beautiful granite wall with cracks and corners aplenty. 600 meters of quality rockclimbing, with difficulties up to 5.10, filled most of our day. Everything was climbed onsight and followed free. We were stoked to find a perfect bivy spot on the ridge, where we set up our comfy little tent and sheltered from a passing squall. After a few hours of rest during the midnight sun we began climbing again surrounded by blue skies! A low cloud layer below us brought the surrounding peaks, jutting through, into beautiful relief.

bivy morning

Another 500 meters of classic ridge terrain separated us from the summit, and we occasionally donned crampons to navigate snow and ice while simul-climbing. At this point we shared terrain with the 1985 ascent of the Southeast Buttress made by Greg Collins and Tom Walter (full history below).

graham following ridge

Reaching the summit midday, we paused to remember our friend Zach Orman, who passed away earlier this year in a paragliding accident. We miss you Zach!

zach orman

Zach smiling

We descended to the North and then rappelled 600m down the Eastern aspect of the North Ridge to a hanging glacier which we able to mostly walk down back to the main Revelations Glacier.

rappel cave

After this point our options became extremely limited due to multiple core shots in our ropes and terrible weather. On the 21st of July we flew out of the range after five days of being pinned down in heavy rain and wind.

Huge thanks goes to the Mugs Stump Award for it’s generous support, as well as the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Expedition Fund.

As always, I had the best kit imaginable thanks to Rab, CAMP, Scarpa, and Nudefood!!!

History:

The Angel was first climbed in May of 1985 by Greg Collins and Tom Walter. They succeeded , after four attempts, in climbing “Snow ramps with an occasional rock move or two along the left flank of the [East] buttress.” After a crux slab (5.10), they gained the East ridge and followed that to the summit.(Tom Walter, 1988 AAJ, p. 119)

(In the report they describe their route as taking place on the ‘Southeast Buttress’ of the peak. We think that their route is on the south side of what we are describing as the ‘East Buttress’. It seems that our route joined  the 1985 route at the top of the buttress and followed the same moderate ridgeline to the summit)

In April of 2012, Clint Helander and Ben Trocki made the second ascent of the mountain by opening the South Ridge. Clint was super helpful and inspirational for our trip, in driving us around Anchorage, giving us photos and maps, and generally sharing his enthusiasm. Thanks Clint, you’re the man!

http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web12s/alpinist-helander-revelations

MORE PHOTOS!!!

flyin in

Light rain on the flight in

 

up glacier flyin in

Our first view up the glacier

 

graham corner stitch edit

Graham leading up a gorgeous corner (poorly stitched composite image, sorry)

triple cracks pitch

Graham moving from one splitter to the next on the “Triple Cracks” pitch. Fun-fun-fun!!

scott in bivy

Peeking out of the little bivy tent. Photo by GZ




ridgeline

Graham approaching the “Terror Towers”, named by Collins and Walter in ’85. It was less chossy than it appears, though, and we found easy passage.

graham lost his keys

Graham lost his keys high on the mountain….



summit snowfield

Slogging on the summit snowfield.

matching sunnies!

Matching sunnies, how cute (:

rivet

After our route, we spent a few rainy days, entertaining ourselves by aiding up boulders. FUN!!

tent drops

Tent bound boredom…

hydra

We think the central rock buttress here on the Hydra is unclimbed!

hydra corner

Here’s a close-up of a beautiful corner system on the Hydra. Go get it!

heli on glacier

Waiting for the fog to lift so that we can fly out. What a proud little bird!!

heli eyes

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