Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thunder Bay -- Family and Ice Climbing -- Part I

This is the hair of a good climber

Its been a while since I have been home. This year I decided that Spring break might be a nice time to visit, much cheaper to fly than Christmas. Pay a visit to the family, some old friends and as a bonus  hopefully climb some ice

Day 1 - March 18th -- Fail. Wind out in San Francisco delayed my initial flight out of Fresno, because of the delay I missed all my connecting flights, so back home. I ended up going to the climbing comp at the gym, but I was really not feeling so great. I managed to onsight a couple of 5.11c, but flailed on the 5.11d. Left early. I really need to work on how to focus and perform even when I am not feeling that well, and when there is a crowd.

Day 2 -- March 19th -- Managed to get out Fresno. My redirected flights really suck, Fresno to SFO, SFO to Houston, Houston to Toronto, Toronto to Thunder Bay. Oh man. Could be worse, at least they didn't' send me to Ulan Baator. 

Success! A plane! 
Day 3 -- March 20th -- Alright, time finally, got to swing my ice tools. Beautiful day. Kyle brought me out to Squaw Bay first to climb April Showers (WI3). I've never climbed anything like it. A narrow gully of ice, almost a chimney. Ultra-ultra fun. When we arrived at the base, I almost got hit by some falling rock! Mental note: Always wear a freakin helmet. 

April Showers. A fun ice filled ice gully!
Almost hit by that rock!

Kyle led the entire climb, a full 60 meter pitch. I'm really impressed by his maturity and progression as a climber. The first pitch was in thin, "mixed" condition, he led through it like a boss. The climbing was really interesting. You sort of stem off some rock bands while climbing up steep ice steps in a gully.

Kyle's pumped to lead

The view on top of the climb were terrific. Squaw Bay is an amazing place to climb, so nice to see Lake Superior, like a giant fresh water ocean

Squaw Bay

Kyle on the summit
Me on the summit

After April Shower, we move the car and hiked up to Ice Stud, an ultra classic WI2 on Mt McKay. When we pulled into the parking lot, we were shocked to see the very recent remains of a stolen burnt out a car. A reminder of the tough economic times that have hit my home town. Some hikers called the wreck into the police, so we were free to continue up to the climb

Burnt out wreck

I have not led an ice climb in 8 years, and even then I only led maybe 1-2 climbs. Ice stud looked like a perfect way for me to cut my leading teeth, so off I went. The first pitch starts with a short steep section, then a big flat ledge, followed by some bulges, then a 1-2 body length steep section. I was a bit nervous, but the climbing was easy, stable and really no big deal. 
Me leading the first pitch of Ice Stud (WI2)

Negotiating the steep step on the first pitch
The second pitch of the climb is a long ice ramp which ended in a steep umbrella step. Very interesting climbing. I headed up, my second lead in 8 years. I smashed through the umbella, sending a rain of big ice down (sorry Kyle!)

Starting the second pitch
Staring to battle the weird umbrella section

We topped out, another awesome Thunder Bay ice climb! I am so pumped to have completed a ice lead, big confidence booster. We headed to Mom and Dad's condo, time for a nice home cooked meal, and some Canadian Beer!

The family enjoying a Mom cooked meal!

Canadian beer. I miss you
Time for bed, looking forward to another day tomorrow. Off to Orient Bay, the Jewel of Northern Ontario ice climbing. 

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