Back to Fifi

Since Tuesday’s visit, I’ve been anxiously awaiting a chance to revisit Fifi’s Frozen Fingers. Today, the opportunity came. Mike Prince and Tom Lane showed up at my doorstep, looking for some ice to climb. I took this as a fantastic method of breaking trail to the Waterfall Wall. We packed up, donned snowshoes, and headed into the forest.

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Mike sets out to lead the Waterfall Wall’s first pitch.

With three of us, the trail was in good shape by the time we finished the hike and stood below the friendly, familiar ice of my home turf. Mike was enthusiastic about leading the first pitch, so he jumped on the sharp end, while I belayed and Tom dealt with hardware issues.

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Tom deciphers old-style crampon straps.

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Mike at the first pitch belay.

In short order, Mike was at the top. A bit of confusion ensued about how to get two of us up there and Mike down so he could walk around with his dog, but it was easy enough to solve. Without much delay, Mike was at the bottom, while Tom and I continued upward, stringing the second and third pitch together (we found out this can just barely be done with a 60 meter rope).

From there, we coiled the rope and walked off left, looking for a non-technical approach to Fifi. It was easy enough to find: near the top of the escape ramp, a narrow ledge meanders across the face, providing just the right avenue of ascent to reach the base of our targetted route. We hollered out to Mike, who had found the ramp and was plodding up toward its top, while his dog, Mammut, raced ahead to join us.

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Mammut, the wonderdog joins us below Fifi’s Frozen Fingers.

Soon we were all together on the sloping bench below Fifi’s Frozen Fingers. Looking up it as I racked gear, it looked somehow steeper than Tuesday. It was doubtful any tectonics had ensued in the meantime, so I chalked it up to sharp-end nerves. Still, I loaded for bear, adorning myself with every screw available and a cam or two, just in case.

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Leading the charge up Fifi’s Frozen Fingers

Despite the nervous jitters, the lead went well, Tom cleaned most of the pitch, and Mike finished the duties, then tip-toed his way up a fine smear of verglas on the left. Tom took a swing at the skinny, too; then I played around on a mixed line to the right of the main flow. By then, the sun was sliding behind the mountain, and the air no longer felt “brisk” but downright cold. It was time to go home.

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Tom Lane, colorfully and quixotically clad.

We trudged out, tired but happy, having enjoyed a fair selection of ice for the day. And with six passes, the Waterfall Wall approach is in great shape!

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