Friday, May 9, 2008

Reclaiming Spring: Climbing Palisade and the Lower St. Louis

Climbing "Phantom Crack"

I woke and went to class on Thursday hoping to paddle later in the afternoon. A few phone calls later it was clear I was going to be disappointed. To remedy the situation, myself and a friend decided to go climb at Palisade Head. An hour later, we pulled up to the vast expanse of Lake Superior as is so beautifully seen from Palisade Head. We first went to fire up the route "Danger High Voltage". I never do the first pitch of it because of beta I had received before. Against my advice, my friend was quite interested in leading the first pitch. Upon getting down to the ground it was clear we had no gear to protect the big off-width crack that lay overhead. He did the grunt work of prussik-ing up the rap line and I had the joy of climbing an alternate route of some decent 5.10 chossy face climbing... I had fun with it! I was going to lead the second pitch, however our rap line wouldn't budge when we tried to pull it. Again my selfless friend ascended and I climbed some nice 5.8. We then set up "Blue Bells" a nice little 5.9- that went well for the both of us. I finished out the day by cleanly climbing a beautiful and technically challenging hand crack entitled "Phantom Crack". We drove home as dusk was falling and I was feeling tired and satisfied with my day.

The Louie under the Hwy 210 bridge

When the sun rose on Friday I rolled out of bed tired and sore with no expectation of adventure in my day. After surviving a 7 hour day of med school classes my intention was to go home and go to bed. However the phone rang my creeking buddy Andy called to invite me to a run on the Lower St. Louis. Putting fatigue aside I drove quickly to Carlton to the river while pounding an sugar infested energy drink. The river was flowing high at 7000 cfs... easily the highest I have run the lower Louis at. Under the Hwy 210 bridge and through the mini-gorge was a hugely boiling chain of successive 3-4 ft wave trains followed by big glassy and more waves. We portaged our way around the "Second Sister" and "Octopus" because at this level they formed deadly terminal hydraulics that necessitated complete avoidance. After getting back on the water we weaved our way through the bone yard with much class II and some class III paddling. Coming up on the swinging bridge we swung around the island to river right. There we scouted the 8-10 ft drop that concluded a converging and heavily boiling pool. We scouted on the rocks that brought back the memories of the past when I used to climb them as a kindergartner and admire the waterfall while under close supervision of Mom (I grew up in the area). As took to lead in to the drop I managed to get turned around but successfully straighten out. I missed my boof and came off the lip more river left than is ideal. Landing in the soft pillow-like boil, I fortunately didn't go too deep. I braced out of the flushy water and had no need to roll. It was a great drop.. We got off the river and sat around as most paddlers often do... spent an hour telling paddling stories and shooting the breeze. As the day came to an end I was invited to do the Devils Track river the next day, in which I accepted with some encouragement. It was a killer afternoon of paddling with a great crew of paddlers!

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