Saturday, January 30, 2010


We've been getting a fair amount of snow, at least it appears that way up in the Organs. Since I just recently retrieved my ice climbing gear from NH, I was eager to get high in the Organs to find a target for my dull Axes. Bob Cort was game for an ascent of Dingleberry, and if time allowed, we would try to hit Wildcat's summit as well.

Since we were expecting a fair amount of snow and even ice, we opted to put on our hard-plastic mountaineering boots straight from the start. This turned out to be a major pain for most of the day. Scrambling over dry granite slabs and boulders in hard-

plastic boots was trying. When we finally got to snow and ice int he gully, it wasn't enough to merit crampons. Yes, the boots kept us dry, but a decent all-season hiking boot would have served us better. The ice-axes however, did come in handy. The gully leading up to the Organ ridge had some icy and steep sections where a tool came in quite handy for providing a good solid hold to advance. I even found a spot of ice to practice my swing, which is miles away from being able to tackle WI 5 type ice anymore. Good thing I live in the desert SW.

We reached the ridge-top and peered over onto the other side. The east side has a steep tree-filled gully and an imposing SE face. The Ingraham description mentioned climbing a number of pitches of the SE face, but it definitely didn't look like 3rd class. instead we took a gully on the west side of the ridge (but very close to the saddle). this may actually be the SE side of the peak, but we didn't check it versus a compass. The gully ends at a steep blocky and brushy climb for about 100 ft before the summit was reached.

The summit was superb. throughout the climb, clouds had been moving in and around us, but as we summitted, we were above the clouds. There's always something uplifting about being on top of clouds. We snacked on lunch and I dug around for the summit register, and then we were socked in by clouds. To my dismay, I did not find a summit register, although there very well could be one buried under some snow. I left a new register anyways.

We opted to descend on the North side down a gully I had seen from the Wildcat summit. This gully was socked in with snow, and gave us a real taste of winter conditions. We kitted ourselves out in our full alpine gear and plunged down the snow until we encountered a steep drop that looked difficult to down-climb in its winter conditions. Fortunately, we had some 30m ropes with us and two short rappels got us down to the upper Wildcat Gully, which we descended back to the car. this last part made my day. The winter conditions made me feel like I was back in Smuggler's notch, caught in a blizzard, trying to get back down before conditions got even worse. Plus the juxtoposition of coming up from a hot arid desert and encountering winter/alpine conditions was immensely satisfying. If only it could stay cold a bit longer and grow some real ice for us to climb next week-end!