Alaska Style Bouldering Out at Byron Glacier

Every year in March and April I start dreaming of bouldering outside, and start looking hopefully for the signs that indicate clear boulders and dry rock.  So strong is my desire to get outside that I willfully ignore the obvious indicators, conveniently forgetting the memories from previous years and inevitably head out in what could generously be called “less than ideal” conditions.

This year is no different and yesterday I asked David if he was game for a quick run down to check out Byron and see how it looked.  I also managed to convince Keenen, although i don’t think he had the slightest idea what he was in for.  I had high hopes of the Erotics Boulder and the Arkenstone being in good conditions.  There are 2-3 lines on these boulders that I was keen to try with the benefit of snow to mellow out the landing.  David was down there several times last year in the early season and has a much better feel for when things would melt out.  He reckoned the Erotics boulder should be good, but had doubts about the Arkenstone.

Sure enough as we headed out, there was no Arkenstone to be seen.  The entire 15 foot tall boulder was covered in snow with not even a bump to indicate where it might be.  The Erotics Boulder on the other hand was climbable, with a 3-5 feet of snow at the base, plus an 8 foot deep snow pit circling the overhung north face.

David and Keenen checking out the snow bowl around the Glacial Erotics Boulder

David and Keenen checking out the snow bowl around the Glacial Erotics Boulder

David and Keenen sorting out the landing for Dirty Little Mistress which follows the arete to the top.

David and Keenen sorting out the landing for Dirty Little Mistress which follows the arete to the top.

We had prepared for the snow though and brought a good selection of pads and a large tarp.  After warming up on a couple of already established lines, we headed to the right arete of the overhung face.  David was up first and headed up the opening moves, after a cross-though move, his foot popped and he twisted out and wasn’t able to hold on.  Keenen stepped up and walked it first go to establish Dirty Little Mistress v3.  This problem was super fun with the confidence of a nice snow landing, but would be terrifying once the snow melts out.  David and I dispatched it our next goes and we moved over to the left arete.

Keenen and I sat down under this and started trying to sort out the opening moves.  I felt like the moves would go, but they were pretty hard and I was having a rough time heel hooking with my left leg due to a bum hamstring.  We moved onto the upper moves to see if we could decipher them.  After trying to work into a pretty miserable pocket, I spied a hold to the left and gave it a shot from a matched position on the arete.  After a few tries  I stuck this move and continued up the arete.  A big jug match, then to a big rail.  I thought I felt it flex a bit when I grabbed it, but decided to go for it anyway.  As I stepped up and went for the lip it exploded, leaving me on my ass on the pad and snow at the bottom.

Me ripping the flake off the left arete.  You can see the flake in the air in front of my chest.

Me ripping the flake off the left arete. You can see the flake in the air in front of my chest.

I was a little spooked by the fall and my adrenaline was pumping, so we called it a day and bolted back to town.  The left arete project would have to wait for another day.