Monday, October 18, 2010

The Wedge

The guidebook to Whiskey Gulch also described some of the roped climbing around Butte, so Kristal looked through it and found an awesome looking and sounding moderate trad route which we decided to check out. It was the Southwest Face route, a 5 pitch 5.8 on The Wedge, one of the rock formations at a place called the Humbug Spires.

We knew it was going to be another long day, the approach for Humbug Spires is about 6 kilometers, with 1300 feet of elevation gain, so we set our alarm and actually got out of bed when it went off this time. We would not make the same mistake as with Outer Space.

It was mighty cold that morning, and as we were eating breakfast in the car, with the engine running and heat on full, the thermometer read -3 degrees. We wondered what the hell we were doing in Montana in the middle of October, and briefly entertained the idea of immediately packing up and heading south. The thought of breaking down the frost covered tent did not appeal too much either though, and we knew it would warm up. The high would be around 12 degrees and we would be climbing in the sun. The climbing conditions would actually be pretty much ideal. We sucked it up and headed out.

Even though it was the longest approach we've done it didn't actually feel too bad. Here I am with about a kilometer left to go, and our first view of The Wedge. 600 feet doesn't look so high from this distance.

The route was fantastic, with an excellent variety of climbing, and some awesome views of the surroundings. For a change we also had the climb entirely to ourselves. It was the first time in a long time that we weren't stuck behind another party. Here I am coming up to the top of the 3rd pitch.

And here is Kristal leading the 5th pitch to the top, which was an unprotected, but thankfully fairly short and easy, slab.

We were delighted to find a summit register at the top, and Kristal went to work adding our entry.

It turned out getting to the rappel anchors would involve some incredibly exposed ridge traversing, which I'm sure you can imagine I enjoyed immensely. Here I am safely at the rappel anchors, after the harrowing (at least in my mind) experience. Kristal of course had no problem with it.

And here's another shot of Kristal on the summit.

We actually made short work of the climb, making it to the top in 3 hours and 45 minutes, which is pretty fast by our standards. In all it was a 9 hour round trip back to camp, and we returned with daylight to spare. It was going to be another sub-zero night though, so we decided to pack up and hit the road. We stayed in a motel that night, and continued due south in the morning, in search of warmer climes.

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