All Mixed Up

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This alpine route consists of several pitches of ice combined with a few pitches of steep snow climbing in which we simulclimbed most of it. Simulclimbing is basically a form of climbing in which both climbers are moving at the same time with a rope tied into each other. If one climber falls, the other climber can secure himself to the slope and arrest the fall of the other with only few protection placements in between.

As I followed behind Josh’s lead, I removed the screws and cams and made my way up to the belay ledge. The ice was in great shape by being not too brittle but not too soft so that the tool would get stuck in the ice. As I found great placements for the tools, it was easy to negotiate the crux move and arrive above the first pitch. I volunteered to lead the second pitch which consisted of low angle ice combined with steep snow that involved front pointing with crampons for a short section. The day was definitely getting into the afternoon by this point and the temperatures were beginning to drop as I neared the second belay ledge. Josh quickly followed my lead and we were setting up for the 3rd pitch when we realized we could simply simulclimb through a section of steep snow in order to gain the belay anchors for the 4th pitch. At this time, all other parties above us were ending the climb at the upper reaches of the face which is mainly steep snow with little ice. Josh led the final ice pitch which consisted of WI3 ice with great screw placements in
the solid ice.

Although the sun was definitely behind the ridge, we could see there was still plenty of daylight left to finish the climb, so we continued up to the snowfields at the top of the route. The final pitches involved careful route finding to avoid avalanche prone areas in the central part of the upper face. We took turns making our way up the snow while I found the path of least resistance. We were amazed at our route while looking down thousands of feet to the valley floor and the frozen lake below us. As we neared the top of the route we realized there is a final snow bench that we must climb up and out of to gain the ridge and stand on the summit. Josh led the final pitch up the ramp and placed a small cam to protect a tricky area of solid snow with fall potential. As he gained the ridge he yelled in excitement as we saw the sun just setting out of view to the west. We quickly packed the gear and began our descent via the Flattop Trail back down to the car at Bear Lake. By the time we found the trail it was completely dark with nothing but stars all around and the city lights out to the east. What an amazing climb in an amazing location. By the time we reached the car, we realized we had just completed a 13 hour climb car to car.

The next day was spent resting and reorganizing the gear for the hike into Glacier Gorge where we set up camp at the base of All Mixed Up, a four pitch ice route on the east face of Thatchtop Mountain above Mills Lake. We leisurely headed up the Mills Lake trail into the gorge while stopping along the way to view the route we would climb the next day. Several parties passed us on the way out offering plenty of excitement over the conditions of the route and the amount of ice that formed so early in the season. Some had explained that this was the best condition they had ever seen the route this early. By late afternoon, we had found a great campsite in the trees right at the base of the approach to the route which we scrambled up to gain our bearings.

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