June 15, 2008

Gold Digger - a new route in the heart of Idaho


In route to the North Face of Sacajawea, I've walked past this amazing formation we've dubbed the Golden Pillar. This is an 11,000 satellite peak located on the massive east ridge of Sacajawea Peak. Directly above an unnamed lake is a distinct and beautiful ice chimney/slot that has taunted me for years. Until this weekend, I've walked past this gem with ambitions for one of the many longer potential routes on Sac's north face. On Saturday this slot was beaming like a vein of gold running down the north face of the Golden Pillar. It was just too good to pass up this time.

After a brief discussion, Justin and I abandoned our original objective and headed to the base of the slot to see what she'd offer up. I've always been some what intimidated by the blank looking start. This year the ice dripped down lower than I've ever seen, making it even that much more doable. Or so i thought!

The opening section was classic mixed climbing on solid and featured rock with an ice and moss filled crack for protection. A bit of bashing and gardening would produce sound protection. Mid way through the mixed section I got the worst case of the screaming barfies to where I was 99% sure I was going to puke on my belayer. So I lowered off and dealt with things on the ground. I stood in the sun while Justin went up and finished the first pitch. Props to him for a fine and bold lead with much commitment. It turned out that the route would have gone in years past and did not need the wet and unusable ice for the first 25meters. Did i mention how amazing the stone was on the mixed section?? No lie.

Once in the slot, we went ice climbing! Good ice which offered 15cm and the occasional 17cm screw. Not vertical, but steep enough to be enjoyable and keep your attention.

My smile got bigger and bigger the higher we got on the route. After a while i would laugh out loud for no other reason than the pure enjoyment i had become consumed by. It was superb climbing.

Wouldn't this make you smile too??

Or how about this?

I know this made Justin smile!

From the top of the technical portion of our route, we coiled the rope and soloed the remaining couloir to gain the east ridge.

It was a perfect day to be in the hills. From the summit we could see huge plumes of snow blowing off the higher peaks (yes i know it's the middle of June), a dozen possible new routes in every direction, and an easy walk off for the descent!

Not the longest or most difficult route to be done in the area, but a fine and beautiful line only 1.5 hours of easy walking from the car and we were home in time to meet Heather and Beth at Heise Rock for the tail end of their cragging session.

This is another fine example of the high quality alpine climbing that Idaho continues to offer up. We named the route Gold Digger and gave it a difficulty rating M-idunnknowbutyoushouldgodoit.

So go get after it!