Fadgen's Adventures

Fadgen's Adventures
Green Creek Lake

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ancient Art- Stolen Chimney

With a weekend to spare, and only 2 weeks until my main climbing partner, (other than my father, of course) Cody, moves to Phoenix, we decided it was time to drive down to Moab and climb Ancient Art in the infamous Fisher Towers. My alarm went off at 3:30am on Saturday morning, and I stumbled out to the living room to wake up Cody, who was sound asleep on my living room floor. After a little convincing, we were on the road at about 3:45. I drove through to Price, about 3 hours. It was light by the time we rolled into Price and was time to switch drivers. I dozed off and on in the passenger seat, trying to capture more than the one and a half hours of sleep I'd gotten the night before.
Upon our arrival in town we made a beeline to a gear shop. We needed to pick up a few Yates Screamers, a vital piece of equipment for the sketchy fixed anchors in our destination. After this purchase, we pulled onto River Road and made quick work of the thirty or so miles to the Towers parking lot.
The Fisher Towers from the parking area

We rack up and argue like an old married couple on what gear to bring. We are on the trail by 10:30, and finish the hike to the base of our climb by 11. 

Ancient Art is the corkscrew spire just right of the tallest point, Kingfisher

The first pitch of the Stolen Chimney is some easy class 4/low class 5 scrambling, and up a smooth wash to a bolt ladder. I lead it and quickly aid the bolt ladder to the first four-bolt belay. Cody leads the next pitch, a 120' straight chimney, over a few overhangs. As he climbs, he frequently showers me with sand and dust. The rock here is basically compressed mud, as evidenced by the runnels and caked-on sand produced by the occasional rainstorm.
Looking back at the top of the first pitch

Cody places plenty of protection, knowing full well that most of it is just for confidence. As stated in our guidebook, "Your best protection for climbing in the Fisher Towers is not falling." No falling allowed! Cody clips the old pitch one anchor (a drilled piton and an old star dryvin bolt with a Leeper hanger) and pulls a wild roof crack/stem into the top of the chimney. Here the route passes a few chockstones to get to the pitch 2 belay anchor, a spacious ledge with another three or four bolt belay. I quickly follow. 

The third pitch is only 30' long, but it is necessary to get to the start of the Sidewalk. It passed without event. 

From the start of the Sidewalk, things get interesting. I decide to lead first. I walk the first fifteen feet along the narrow path (maybe 20 inches wide, with 500' of air to both sides!). About 3/4 of the way along the Sidewalk is a step down, the crux of the final pitch for some. After stepping down, you come to the infamous Diving Board. The name aptly describes it. It sits right about at sternum height for me. I lassoed it with a double-length sling, knowing full well it wouldn't do anything if I skated off. I placed both hands on the top of the feature, counted to three, about ten times, and finally worked up the courage to leap. Upward and forward. I landed hard, but didn't feel a thing. Cody and I both breathed a sigh of relief, but the look of the climbing ahead was not reassuring. I clipped the bolt at the base of the Diving Board and moved up and left, stemming and pulling on slopers and soap bars. I moved right this time and stepped onto a ledge, where the next bolt was. 

A few more moves passed in calm terror as I pulled an awkward mantle to the nest of webbing slung around the top. I clipped this, gathered myself, and headed up to the top of the spire. 
On top!

I quickly lowered off, back across the Sidewalk, and to the belay anchor. Cody and I swapped belays, and he made his way out to the Diving Board. He made the leap and landed safely on top. He made quick work of the awkward moves to the summit. 
Cody on top

With both of us now back down to the anchor, we snapped a few pictures and set up the rappel to the top of the second pitch. 
Cody excited after the final pitch

The rappels passed without incident, thankfully. A full 70 meter rappel on two ropes took us all the way back to the ground, where we talked about how little we had eaten as we packed up to hike out. 

We drove into town to wrestle with a few routes on Wall Street just outside of town, but quickly realized neither of us were adept enough at sandstone crack to be worth a damn. We drove back to our campsite in the shadow of the towers and went to sleep with the wind howling. 

Our alarm went off in the morning at 7am, with Castleton Tower our goal. Unfortunately, it was snowing, windy, and freezing cold, so we opted to go to Denny's and head home instead. 

Towers Sunday morning

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Graham Peak – 8867’

Graham Peak, as seen from the City of Rocks visitors center
With the lovely February weather we have been having lately, John Platt organized a road trip to the City of Rocks in Southeastern Idaho to visit some old friends of his.  Oh, and a climb of a nearby peak would also be involved.

John and Julie met Michael, Tom Lopez and me at the Albertsons parking lot early Sunday morning.  The 5 of us squeezed into the Platt’s Toyota Highlander, which is “supposed” to carry 7, for the quick 3.5 hour drive to Almo, Idaho.  There we meet up with John’s old friends, Tom Harper and Hannah North, and made the short drive to the City’s Circle Creek trailhead.

Unbeknownst to me, the City has a pretty extensive trail system.  Hannah, who has run and hiked these trails many times, led the way through the twists and turns around the many rock formations.  After about an hour, Hannah peeled off to shuttle the 7 person Highlander to our finish point, while the rest of us continued on.
Steinfell's Dome

The excellent Circle Creek Trail
Heather explaining to John just how big it is
Tom Harper
The trail switched back and forth and we eventually gained enough altitude to see our peak.  
Graham Peak
Along the way, we passed many interesting rock formations including this window.   

At roughly 7800 feet, we came to a broad plateau where Circle Creek Trail intersected with the Indian Grove Trail.  We followed the Indian Grove two track for a bit, and soon had a great view of our objective.  Rather than continue along the road, we turned right and made a beeline for the base of the peak.

After struggling through some thick sagebrush and a snow filled gully, it was time to head up the steep, mountain mahogany filled slope to the summit.  At this point the six of us wandered apart, taking slightly different routes.  The path of least resistance required staying in or near the mahogany and jumping between snow patches to minimize the exposure to the wickedly thick sagebrush. 

There are actually two people in the mahogany
Michael and I covered this final 1000 feet in about an hour, only to be blasted by 30mph winds on the summit.  In short order, Tom Lopez joined us and the three of us huddled behind a 5 foot wide radio tower building to try and stay out of the wind.  This worked for a bit, but we quickly became chilled.
Michael approaching the summit
Michael naming some distant peaks to Tom
Once John, Julie and Tom Harper joined us, we took some quick photos and bailed off the east side to get out of the wind and warm up.  Once we dropped down a few hundred feet, we stopped to take a break, get a bite to eat and enjoy the views of the City. 

As we continued down the mountain, Tom Harper entertained us with the history of the surrounding area and pointed out other hiking opportunities.  As the sun dropped below the mountains, we finally arrived at our destination at 6PM.
A look back up in the fading light.
This link details the City of Rock hiking opportunities: http://www.americasstateparks.org/park_maps/Idaho_map_City_of_Rocks_Trails_Brochure.pdf

Time: 8 hours
Distance: ~ 10 miles
Elevation: ~3200 feet

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pine Mountain - 8648'

As I sit here contemplating what to put down from our trip to Northern Nevada two weeks ago, I'm a bit bummed.  It's the first week of February and it was above 60 degrees this afternoon.  Big storm coming in, but it will rain down low and if we're lucky, wet snow up high.  Winter seems to have passed us by before it even got started... oh woe is me.

A couple of Saturdays ago (Jan 23rd) , John, Michael and I took a road trip down to Northern Nevada.  The plan was to climb an obscure P2K peak that Michael had on his list - Pine Mountain just NE of Wildhorse Reservoir.  We were hoping it wouldn't turn into just a road trip, since we had been unable to obtain any information on the road conditions.  But it turned out to be all good, as Michael's FJ Cruiser didn't have any trouble through the 9 miles of snow covered road to Gold Creek Ranger Station.

We were walking up the snow covered road a little after 10AM in an unsettled sky that was spitting snow.  After a short while we started punching through the snow, so it was time to put on the snowshoes.

We cruised up the road for the first couple of miles, only gaining a few hundred feet, before we took a sharp right and started up an aspen covered slope.

John is known for leading us on some wicked, downfall filled, showshoe adventures and we talked about the most epic one as we weaved our way through the dense aspens.  http://fadgenfamily.blogspot.com/2011/12/bull-mountain-utah.html

After the initial dense cluster of aspen, the terrain opened up and our objective came into view.  At this point, the sun decided to break through the clouds for it's only short appearance of the day.
Pine Mountain

Though the sunshine didn't last too long, it didn't bother us too much, since it was plenty warm without it.  As you can see, we are hiking in long sleeve shirts on the last week of January.

The slope became a bit steeper as we neared the summit.

We all reached the top about 1PM, and after taking some photos we found a place out of the wind to have some lunch.
Summit stake
At this point Michael's Mexican food from the previous night was acting up, so he decided to re-trace our route back to the car.

So after saying our good-byes, John and I made the long trek down Pine Mountain and across a broad plain to Rosebud Mountain.  The red dot in the photo below is Rosebud.

From the top of Pine Mountain, Rosebud seemed like a long ways off.  But we kept up a steady pace and reached the base of it in less than an hour.  After a short, steep grunt through a rocky section, we were on top.
J Platt photo
The wind was blowing pretty good at this point, so it was time to get down.  We could just barely make out Michael walking back to the FJ along the road.  This spurred John on, and I did my best to try and keep him in my sights as we descended the steep slope.   We were back where we started in a little less than an hour, smiling from ear to ear.  A great day to get out of the seemingly constant Boise inversion and climb a couple of obscure peaks!

Time: 5:45
Distance: 8-9 miles
Elevation: 2700 feet

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A team of adventurers consisting of John, Tamara, Taylor, Dylan, and Shadow Fadgen