Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Success and Failure
 Upper Doublet (right tower)
Giants Foot
My alarm went off at 3:30, I made a cup of coffee, through my gear in back of the Subaru, kissed Francine good-bye and left the front door at 4 a.m.. I was meeting my climbing partner, Chris Guyer, in Columbus as he was coming from Billings. Chris is in his early 20's, he is super fit, strong and has a great head for climbing. The guy can throw down! Our objective for the day was the Abbey Schock route (13 pitches, 5.11) on the Upper Doublet in the East Rosebud Canyon. We felt like we were making good time as we simul-climbed the first 5 pitches, then we hit the Grey Matter pitches mid way up the wall. This part of the wall slowed us to a crawl as we got off  route and climbed some very loose scary pitches but we got throught it and managed to get back on route up higher. We climbed the last two pitches of the route with headlamps as we lost the race against the setting sun. After the descent and the three hour drive back to Bozeman, I walked back through my front door at 4 a.m., 24 hours bed to bed. Chris who had the shorter drive back to Billings made himself stay up until 4 so that he had the same experience as I did. I told you he was young and strong, I didn't say he had the common sense to go to bed when he got home. Sorry Chris, I have to give you shit!
starting the Grey Matter pitches
 5.11 traverse
Chris contemplating the difficulties ahead
Chris on a hard lead
Summit Shot
   After our success on the Upper Doublet, we turned our attention to the unclimbed Giants Foot (A.K.A. First Wall). This wall had been attempted by the Alex Lowe in the 1990's and a few years ago I had found his old fixed line and the start to his route. This would be a full-on big wall aid climb, we planned accordingly bringing a ledge, bolts and rivets and a willingness to spend a few days on the wall.
   Before the trip I joked with Francine, telling her that Chris and I would need to go into Spartan Warrior mode to get this thing climbed, as it would turn out that wasn't to far from the truth. I went  in two days ahead of Chris and started hauling loads to the start of the route, on one of my trips up the loose scree slope I lost my footing and fell, cutting my knuckle to the bone. My first thought was that our climb was don, but then I thought about what I had told Francine about the Spartan Warrior mode. So, I went back to the tent washed all the blood off and cleaned the wound, I didn't have a first-aid kit only some tape and a flask of 101 Wild Turkey. I figured the whiskey would steralize the cut.  It works in the movies. Wow! Pouring that whiskey on my raw knuckle lit me up, but hey we are Spartan Warriors here. So I taped it up and kept going. Later that night Chris showed up eager to get on the wall the next day.
   The next morning we would climb the gully below the face to the launching area for the wall above. Leading the gully turned out to he a lot harder than we had anticipated as it was running with water and the walls were worn smooth with little to no gear placemants. I did manage to get to a chock stone that I slung and after much internal disccusion I commited to the polished stone above and I promptly fell off slaming my knee into the chock stone. In much pain I again thought of the now annoying, Spartan Warrior comment. So I shook it off and tried again. This time I managed to get past the "approach pitches" to the start of the actual wall. After fixing lines and hauling loads up the gully we were ready to start the wall. The first pitch was the real deal right off the deck, but I gained confidence the higher I climbed. After pulling a small roof, I could see the old fixed anchor and felt confident that I was only moments away from finishing the first pitch. Adding to my confidence was a perfect #1 camalot placement that I spotted just below the anchor. This meant I could get off these pin placemants and have a solid piece to get to the anchor. As I got to the slot I placed the cam, clipped my aider to it and gave it a tug. The wall exploded above me as a refrigerator sized block came out and caught me in the right shoulder. It slammed into the talus below and luckily missed Chris. In the fall I shock loaded my fifi hook and it snapped in two, but the last pin that I placed held and Chris caught the fall. After a quick assesment I realized that I was okay other than the fact that when I  raised my arm above my head I had a terrible pain in my shoulder. Turns out it is very hard to climb when it hurts to lift your arm above your head so I built an anchor and lowered off leaving Chris to jug and clean the pitch. After this it was decided, "To hell with the Spartans, I'm tired of getting beat up everytime I turn around" and we started to bail. Some would say why post about such a coveted first ascent and give people the idea of going to climb it before I have a chance to go back. Well honestly I'm not too worried, but if someone out  there thinks they have the sand to go give it a try, a little advise, "Spartan Up"!

Chris on the approach pitches
Getting ready for the wall
Starting up!
Full on aid mode

Chris cleaning the pitch after the near miss
The mighty Bear's Face (only one ascent) with the Giants Foot ( no ascents) behind upper left.


  1. Nothing against Alex--BUT, the mighty Bear's Face was climbed with a Hilti (and used graciously)...

    ...super bad form, as they power-drilled up where a team in the 70's turned back. Sadly, not his proudest climb, as he rarely mentioned his exploits on it in print or public :-(

    BOTH of those walls need to be ascended in GOOD (read Legal) style!!!!1111

    Go do it, and be Spartan about it :-)

  2. Incorrect in posting only 1 ascent of the Bear's Face.... In 1997 (I think...) Klas Shok and Joel Nolte completed DELIVERANCE (to R of Lowe's Rt) on the Bears Face). 3rd time was the charm. 11 pitches, grade VI, new wave A3+. No Hilti was used, all hole drilled by hand. (Joel Nolte)

  3. Joel, I have just started blogging again and I read your comment. I had no idea there were two other routes on the Bear's Face, my mistake. Thanks for the info!