This fall is about to be ridiculous. It is ski movie season. Also, it is "Anna is cooling her jets and not skiing in back country pre-season, low snow cover conditions and finding rocks and tearing her ACL" season. I still need to prove to my girlfriend that I can, in fact, ski.
Side Story: we met in the parking lot of a well known back country ski area. She asked me about the mountain. I liked her attitude and gave her my number if she wanted a ski partner sometime. We went on out ways up the mountain. I tore my ACL that day. She texted me later that day and I felt like a huge lame ass and didn't want her to think I was blowing her off.... So I suggested getting dinner because I didn't want her to think I was making up my knee injury. So ironically, skiing is pretty central to the core of our initial relationship though we have never actually gone skiing together. For all she knows I could just be a huge poser. (Don't worry, I'm not.)
I also have a fire fighter class every other weekend until Christmas. I have been volunteering with the fire department for three years now... while I have gotten to be a highly certified EMT, certifications on the fire side has been more elusive for me to obtain. Now is the time.
Side Story #2: My Captain at the fire station told me to take it easy last pre-winter. He says Alaska is a late season ski area. I didn't listen.... and tore my ACL hitting a not buried enough rock with my ski. I had to call him to tell him I would be on medical leave for months... I was on the leave board as "She didn't listen to Manch (my captain)". He is the instructor for the firefighter class.
So it is extra important I don't fuck up my knee early ski season.... Lindsay and I have also decided to devote more time (like 5x a week) to improving our climbing skills. Also, I gave shiro a pink bow tie to wear. He loves it. So that's life.
All that said, I have just acquired the gear needed to go ice climbing. I have been climbing...I just used other's gear. And... skiing! My main winter passion. But. Let's not count the snow flakes and days below freezing until they happen. Lindsay and I have a dinner bet on when the first snowfall will be. Come on snow on October 28th....
Anyway, so. No one cares about all that. Last weekend! As promised, we were determined to break in my new climbing rope. Unfortunately, REI was having its garage sale and we were somewhat unmotivated to spend our last down weekend for while running around being completely crazy. Sleep is nice sometimes. We went to the garage sale. Shiro somehow got out. The neighbor called "Hi, we have your dog." WTF? The house is locked and he was in it. Somehow the back door got opened and he got out.
That said, solid days of climbing turned into a solid few hours. Which was fine. Still better than nothing. We didn't have much of a plan so I loaded up packs with everything for ice and rock climbing. We threw Shiro in the truck (After retrieving him from the neighbor) and headed down to Portage.
There is rock climbing near Byron Glacier in Portage. You can also ice climb on the glacier. We parked and got gear on. Lindsay put on a puffy coat and like 4 layers. I made fun of her. It was 45 degrees out. Oh well, she is warm. We started walking down the trail, with no idea what we were going to do. Shiro ran around happily. It was around 4 when we finally left the trailhead. We got to the end of the trail. Well, the glacier has receded a hell of a ways up the valley. When I first visited 10 years ago it was right there. Easy to walk on. Hundreds of ill-prepared people (like myself at the time) would just wander around on the ice. It has probably retreated at least a half, maybe a whole mile up the valley now. When looking up-valley, to the left, there are a couple rock outcrops. Between us and the rocks them was a meandering stream of icy glacier runnoff.
I elected to cross the stream early on. It was a fairly straightforward process (recommended). Lindsay and Shiro decided to wait. We walked probably close to another mile, getting slowly further and further apart as she followed the stream and I was forced toward the rock outcrops for good footing. I moved slower due to the footing. I reached the rocks and assessed that yes, these were the routes we were searching for. I yelled/whistled/signaled to Lindsay in the distance. She appeared to receive my message. I waited.
About 5 minutes later, Shiro appeared but no Lindsay. I waited a little longer. Then I had the thought of "why is Shiro here without her.... I hope nothing happened and he is now coming to get me for help...." I got worried and tried to find Lindsay. She was wearing all black. Against grey rocks and a grey sky. I saw nothing. Shiro took off as soon as I started moving. Fuck. That is concerning. I walked a little further up to finally see a black shape moving away from the glacier. She was all the way at the foot of the glacier. Whew, and ok!
She walked toward me and mentioned the stream is not great to cross. We threw rocks across the stream so she could get across. Since there were no good places to cross higher up, we made one. There were some cool looking caves at the foot of the glacier. Unfortunately, we didn't want to hang out too long since the scree on the sides of the valley was constantly sliding. Every few minutes a new bit of rock would come down. Well, glacier climbing will wait for another day and another glacier. Fuck falling rocks.
We headed up to the crag. At this point, it was almost 6. It would be dark in an hour. It was kind of hard to see with the lighting. It was kind of cold. It has been a while since I have done much with anchors on outdoor rocks. Neither of us have ever climbed here before. And neither of us are exactly experts at outdoor rock climbing. We sat down and took in the gorgeous scenery. Yup, Climbing was going to wait until tomorrow. We chilled, watched Shiro's antics, took some cool photos and decided to head back.
We had a short, dusk-y hike back. Shiro decided to run off into the alders and not come when called and be a general little shit. He finally came back with something in his mouth. In the dark, using our i-phone lights, we identified it as possibly a long dead rabbit carcass. Gross. No dog kisses tonight. Or for the next week. Or month. Also, he's getting a bath. We made it back to the car as the last light of day faded out.
The next morning, we got up and made some awesome burritos (as is usual on the weekends) I pulled the ice gear out of the pack and we headed down to Boy Scout Rock for some climbing for real this time. The weather was again sub par. It was overcast and chilly with a light wind. We pulled into the parking lot and contemplated our life choice. A discussion of "maybe we should just fuck it and go to the rock gym instead" followed. We decided we had come all this way, we should probably just suck it up and do it. Besides, Shiro was with us and ready to go outside. I opened the door and stepped out into the elements. Yup, solid life choice. On the up side, future climbing trips in the warm sun will seem that much better! We walked the half mile to the rock and set out gear down.
I pulled out my fantastic new rope. It feels so nice compared to my dry rope I already had. We grabbed some carabiners and slings, tied Shiro up to a tree, and headed up to set up a top rope. As soon as we were out of sight, Shiro immediately freaked out that we were leaving us. He is a rescue and I have still not broken him of his separation anxiety. Time after time I leave him and come back while giving him no attention when he is behaving badly and he still hasn't learned that I come back. Maybe someday. When he's 10.
I clipped in and went down to the anchors. Shiro caught sight of me and stopped his panic attack. Luckily we had the space to ourselves so there was no one for my dog to annoy. I used my assortment of rock, ice, and rescue anchor building material to set up the rope before rappelling down. We spent a few hours climbing and enjoying the last of summer. The new rope is awesome. Shiro chilled and watched us and wished he was cool enough to have hands and could climb too. Unfortunately, we had to leave after a couple hours to meet up for our dinner engagement. Time for a busy few weeks!