October 13, 2012
You never know when it will happen….so be ready!
And we were! Alfonzo made reservations over a month ago knowing it is hard to get camp sites over consecutive days this time of year. We were planning to rock climb, but with the forecast calling for cold weather, the ice tools were packed along with the rock gear. You never know when you might need your ice tools.
We arrived Friday night to light snow showers. Rock climbing still seemed possible to some with the forecast . Our friends Mike & Cassy packed for the Armadillo. Alfonzo and I packed for ice. We had a good feeling about the conditions leading up to Saturday. And with the forecast calling for low teens at 4000′ overnight we committed to ice climbing and packed light to move fast.
We were greeted with clear sky’s and temps in the 20’s Saturday morning. As we walked up the trail, the ground became more frozen and signs of solid ice were everywhere…our pace quickened for we knew climbable ice would be found.
As we walked into the Chimney pond area, the grandness of the South Basin with a winter look welcomed us. There was ice everywhere. Better than we expected and better than last years trip in early December. And the Cilley-Barber was in! All the planets had aligned. With pure luck we had impeccable timing, creating the perfect early season situation.
After checking in with Mark the ranger at chimney pond we headed UP! We chose the biggest moderate line we could see. This was the start of the “Chauvin-Cole” route up to “Piggy-Wiggy” and then to the ridge. The gift of early season ice was given again, for in the winter most of this climb would be a snow slog. We had water ice, tail to tip.
We climbed about 1500 ft of good and sometimes challenging water ice on a spectacular day. This was the best early season ice I have ever climbed. We were so lucky!
Many thanks to Baxter State Park, a great park with excellent hospitality. And special thanks to Ranger Rob and Mark for being so excited about ice climbing.
~ Doug Millen
Photos by Doug Millen & Alan Cattabriga