A view of the cliffs lining the Southfork of the Shoshone River. Great ice: one of several hundred such climbs.
Don Foote had called and asked me to present a slide show Saturday night at the ice festival in Cody, Wyoming. Having never climbed there, I accepted immediately. Don drove me up the Southfork road accompanied by a continuous narration of the climbs as we passed them; he was a mine of information as I craned my neck to see above. The road was littered with deer, thousands of them, then sheep, then elk. I even spotted a cat hunting in a field.
Bighorn sheep on the road.
The next day, we met "The Germans", Marco, Klaus, Christian, and Carmen. Marco had come a year before at the invite of his friend Werner, a Cody local. Now I had partners and relied on their experience to lead me to a fine new climb. They inadvertently led us to a detached hollow slushpile. However we had a blast in the warm sun. I let up the mush while they tried to call me down. At the top I grabbed a 2" willow that broke off in my hand, but I belayed from the scrub anyway, depending on the experience of a lifetime of rotten belays. It seemed normal.
Marco on belay...for all the good it would do!
Klaus shades his eyes from the melting sun
Christian gives our effort a thumbs-up.
The Germans had been climbing for several days straight, so this was a great rest day for them. I hadn't climbed ice in a month, except for chopping the ice off the eves of my house after the continuous snowfall of the past several months in Anchorage. The mushy ice caved under my feet. A sheet of water ran behind the ice-like substance I was standing on, and a hollow "Thunk" shuddered the whole edifice at every blow.
Klaus with a resigned look, ready to go!
Carol and Jen arrived from Boulder, lifting my spirits even higher. I had discovered the Silver Dollar bar and grill the night before, so we all headed over for beer and burgers.
Kate, my new best friend at the bar
I asked Kate, the server, what I should eat. "A Hamburger!" she replied. I looked at the menu. Only three items, the first was the burger. I saw they had IPA on tap. I was in heaven.
Waiting for Godot...and a hamburger with my IPA.
The rest of Team Germany had taken a rest day, but there was no rest for Marco when he heard Carol and Jen would be along. We picked "Chasing the Sun" at the end of the road and a short 45 minute hike up the boulders. It turned out to be an excellent choice. It was Jen's first ice climb. She is a fantastic ice climber and had just started her new job as the Rocky Mtn Regional Rep for the American Alpine Club.
Jen and Carol approach "Chasing the Sun"
A big smile seeing the ice!
The vertical curtain of ice was bullet hard in the morning sun; it would be a perfect place to learn.
Carol led up the left hand edge with Marco. I took the right side and set up a top rope. Jen floated up the ice. I was impressed.
Don had volunteered us to teach a clinic for beginning climbers on Saturday. Nineteen folks were supposed to be in the clinic with five instructors; twenty six showed up. It was excellent! To weed out the weak, the snow-covered road stopped several of the huge trucks and became stuck on the hill. Like wounded hippos, We abandoned the wounded ones like hippos on a riverbank, filled the rest with the crew and continued on. The greatest casualty was the Doc, who slipped on the road and snapped his humerus off at the ball. Don took him back to the hospital.
The three large climbs of grade 2 and grade 3 ice were an hour's drive and a 45 minute hike, guaranteeing that everyone who made it would be in moderate shape and warmed up. The guides set up 4 top-ropes, and we went to work with the crowd, giving everyone a chance to climb all four. It was a Wyoming Bubba event, so a huge smoky bonfire was soon glowing, warming the cold souls who roasted hot dogs.
Climbers practice on the line of ice, while bystanders cook hot dogs.
Don arrives after medical duty on the Doc
By 3 pm we were done, and I had a slide show to present at 8. I'm sure I had the most fun, recollecting the 1967 rescue on the North Face of the Grand Teton and the lives of my friends who lived through it with me. Looking into the audience, I saw old friends like George Lowe, John Bragg, Mary Ann Dornfeld. And new ones like my nephew's wife's brother Pete McConkie. I had a great evening slurping down the free Ranger IPA, compliments of New Belgium Brewing.
The SAR folks ascend the choss and scree
But Sunday morning came early. Don had roped me into helping him teach a clinic on mountain rescue to the local SAR groups. We headed out in Don's huge Suburban loaded with the coolest rescue gear ever. I, who come from the era of goldline ropes, steel carabiners, Stokes litters, and bowline knots, would be helping instruct a state-of-the-art rescue school. Well, I could help them be safe. And, I'm not a total Luddite; I do use new gear!
On the slick traverse to the climb
We scraped up a scree pile, across a somewhat dangerous traverse and down to the top of a nice 60 foot climb where Don set up a very modern tripod and pulley.
Working with the rescue tripod
I'm sure I learned the most. It was a great group of folks from the surrounding communities. Everyone had a turn both lowering and raising the litter using the traditional 3 to 1 pulley system over the tripod.
The folks haul on the 3:1 system
Very cool! I'll be back next year for sure, and I'll plan to spend more time searching out those big drips.