Icefest on the Waterfall Wall

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Lukasz rips up the first pitch

Seven of us meandered out to Crane Mountain’s Waterfall Wall for to poke at the ice Sunday. Among us was one relative newcomer and one absolute, never-ever. The weather was great, the climbing grand; this was the best climbing day I’ve had this year.

First to arrive were Mike Prince, Kris, and Ryan, along with a pair of wildly excited adventure pooches. Kris had never swung an ice tool or worn crampons, but having watched her climbing at Rocksport and The Edge, we were certain she could handle the task with aplomb. I waved them on as they trooped up the trail, then went to church, sneaking out early to meet other arrivals. Lukasz and Jackie pulled in at 11:30, and by the time they were packed and heading up, it looked like no one else would show. I gathered my gear and raced toward the ice by noon.

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Mike handles belay duty

At the base of the flow, Lukasz and Jackie were gearing up. Ryan was just starting the first pitch, where Kris and Mike awaited him at the top. I threw on all the pointy stuff and in a few minutes began plugging upward myself, hoping to grab Ryan for a run over to and up Providence.

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Kris soaking in the sunshine below pitch two

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Ninja Ryan starting out on pitch 2

By the time I topped out, the threesome were setting up for the second pitch. Ryan was set to lead out, so he suggested going up farther before splitting off for a different climb. And shortly, plans would change, as a flurry of barking announced a newcomer. Todd Paris came tromping up to join the cast and crew. I decided to hang out and take pictures while Todd affixed the necessaries and joined us on the belay.

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Practically jogging up pitch one

Lukasz was already well on his way as I got in position to snap photos. I barely had time to snap a shot or two before he was driving through the bulge and past me to the anchors.

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I remained in place for Jackie’s turn, switching between belaying Todd and clicking buttons – safely, of course.

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Jackie’s fourth ice climb, already confident and strong 

Todd waited for his turn patiently, then scampered up the remainder of the pitch.

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Ryan was belaying Mike up as we strode to the base of the second pitch. Shortly, Kris set off, doing very well on her first day on ice.

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Lukasz led up while Jackie belayed him. Todd and I elected to solo up the next few pitches. Once we were at the top of the third pitch, I hung back to play shutterbug again. Todd dragged our rope along the walkup pitch.

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Jackie on pitch two. They combined 2 and 3 into one long pitch

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And once more, patiently modelling at the traditional pitch 3.

Soon, we were all gathered below the uppermost pitch, where steep ice or no ice are the only options. Mike & Co. had run out of time, so they began hustling downward as best they could. We three remaining set about choosing targets. Lukasz set up for the main attraction, the direct 4- finish. Todd and I headed left to the rightmost smear of ice, a 10 meter curtain broken by a ledge at midheight.

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While setting up for this, Lukasz assured me that the mixed line between us was not the pitch he and Michael Gray had done previously. After Todd and I dispatched our chosen variation, I grabbed the opportunity to snag the other one (greedy, I know). So we established two variations to the route as the sun sank low.

Todd had already headed downward, rushing ahead of darkness. Jackie, Lukasz, and I used every bit of daylight we dared risk climbing, then began the long series of rappels down the mountainside. These would be Jackie’s first rappels: 115′ to rope’s end, 200’+, and a 110′ final rap in darkness.

Headlamps were utilized for packing up and heading homeward. On the way out, we noted flame on the horizon: the full moon, huge and brilliant orange, slowly crept upward. It was a beautiful view to finish off a wonderful day. Who could ask for more? Great friends, great weather, and fat ice.

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