——back to a little writing today———-Matt heads straight away for the wild-looking icicle hanging from the broad curtain. It terminates tantalizingly close to the snow, but just out of reach. At the overhanging rock face behind the icicle, he sets his picks on an in-cut edge, pulls onto the rock, and begins climbing. At twenty feet he gains the ledge and squeezes behind the ice pillar, emerging on the other side. This is standard practice when climbing detached ice columns. By threading the rope behind the pillar, you effectively create a protection point in case of a fall. Should the ice catastrophically fail while you are on it, you will theoretically fall free of the pillar and perhaps survive. Or maybe the damn thing just takes you with it anyhow. ———————————-
Matt carefully picks his way up the thin column, an ever longer arc of rope flapping freely in the wind below. He finally pulls onto the curtain above, places a screw, and finishes the climb on a solid apron of ice.
I follow the pitch, and am delighted to see that Matt is right. The steep rock and skinny icicle are easier than they look. But still, I think—it’s a stout climb. It’s got to be WI6, M5. “What do you make of the grade?”, I shout to Matt. “Doesn’t really need a mixed grade in my mind, the rock section was pretty short. How about we just call it WI5?” ———————————-
I pause, and consider Matt’s words. For those unfamiliar with the medium, WI5 is continuously vertical “expert” ice. Often, a free-hanging icicle will get a Water-Ice grade of WI6, and a mixed grade as well, depending on the steepness of the rock climbed to access the ice. For a frame of reference, an M5 mixed climb requires roughly the same effort as a 5.10 rock climb.———————————- “Well, I guess that’s fair, Matt. How about this week we grade like Cheesmond and Blanchard with their infamous Canadian alpine 5.9 A2? “I’m with you” Matt replied, “It’s all WI5.”————————————*this pic is of @zach_turner
following Matt’s first ascent pitch later the same day.