Alaskan Alpine Club

The 2007-08 Ice Tower, Page 5

9 February to 23 February 2008.

Saturday 9 Feb Report: (The Ice Crew Reporter)

The serious ice climbing crew showed up at 40 below 0 in the morning, and promptly, ah, after some hot cocoa and a few stories, put up more pipe on the left end of the tower. Well of course the serious climbing crew shot a line over the tower with the line launcher, and ascended the rope, instead of lead climbing the ice. That climbing stuff would have required another cup of cocoa. Ascending the rope is quicker, and makes working at the top more efficient, on those rare occasions the line launching trick works. This time the rope came close to a useful position only because it looped around a nubbin of ice that actually held despite the initial debate. The goal is to get pipe up there, which involves some serious guessing as to how long the water can be turned off before the pipe freezes, despite the highly engineered shut-off/drain valve design that froze only once so far this year. If the line over the top trick had not worked, the serious ice climbing crew would have had to do some serious ice climbing.

Then John the artist showed up to mix and add the color, which turned out to be a stunning lime green, especially where the sun illuminated it through the ice. The web camera did not adequately show the color compared to the on-site view.

Then when the sun warmed up the sunny side of the ice a bit more, the less serious, warm weather climbers belatedly straggled in, questionable lot that climbers are. Under no pressure while the serious crew prepared the next pipe, the less serious crew climbed the right end of the tower, to get to the nozzle head that had not been changed in awhile. Their leisurely arrival facilitated their having to climb up through the water being sprayed from the newly added pipe on the left side, which did not look too bad until they had difficulty at the spot of the most rain. There was a benefit. Their color-challenged selection of dull dark clothes was upgraded with a temporary crust of green ice.

All the activity took place on the back side of the ice where the sun was. And of course nobody had a camera. The painful cost of ice tools precludes the money for film, er pixels.

Because it had not been changed in a couple weeks or so, getting to the right side nozzle head required a lot of ice chopping. Underneath the ice, the nozzle head had melted out a large cavern around it, large enough for two people to be, ah, uncomfortable. In fact one person had to squeegee around a bit to get in through the chopped hole, to get the old nozzle head off, and screw in the new pipe. But inside, he was completely out of sight from the people at the bottom, who were wondering why he was taking so long. Well, the room in the double lobed cavern was shaped for everything except changing the pipe.

During the right side pipe adding adventure, while descriptive muttering could be heard echoing through the ice, one of the crew climbed the left (wet) side, and scooted across the top of the narrow wall that joins the two previous towers, much to the amusement of those watching. He was not much distinguishable from the other green ice by the time he got rigged to rap off the top.

The right side pipe was a bit slaunchwise to vertical, so even more laborious ice chopping was required, from the inside of the cavern, to get the next section of pipe lined up. That facilitated the crew finishing late and dragging themselves down from the project with barely enough time left to get to the evening's various seminars, lectures and other educational opportunities common to Saturday nights in the dark of winter in the far frozen north, as you might well suspect.



10 February photos































14 February












16 February Report, John the artist was at work. The assistants were at work. John got the color pattern he wanted with the predicted flow of water from the newly added nozzle arrangement on the south parapet of the tower. The brilliance, size and array of the pink color, which is diminished by the web camera lens, was what every art gallery and art museum in the world would have paid dearly to manifest for their clients and visitors.

A photo journalism student, and a real professional photographer with her own gallery arrived in the morning. But the flat light day and the paucity of crew at the moment, the cold and a couple other excuses enticed them elsewhere just before the real photo action started.

The first guy up, ascending a rope to the top, belayed the other guy climbing up, to an amusing overhang of icicles just below the top. Thereupon the other guy chopped through a different set of icicles, from the back side of the tower, to the front side, and finished the last several feet without an overhang. These climbers will do anything to find the easy way up, then tell the most outrageous tough-guy stories of difficulty. Man, you should have seen that overhang of icicles on the crux. (Never mind that they were only seen, and not climbed.)

The nozzle head was way down in a cavern of ice, requiring much chopping and hacking and bashing of the ice to reach. Even the Schtoriepickle was used to get to the nozzle head. The technician called for an unusual two 6 foot sections of pipe, on account as he only had 6 foot sections in the Ice Shack, instead of one 10 foot section, and it was that far to the top of the ice from the last pipe section. The usual squeegeeing down into the convoluted cavern, straining muscles otherwise not known to exist, resulted in a successful addition of the pipe.

That part of the work done, of course the other climbers then belatedly showed up, too late to add pipe to the north parapet of the tower. And one of the crew's crampons broke, to provide another excuse to kick-back in the Ice Shack where a bottle of fine Scotch was rumored to have arrived. Climbing equipment manufacturers just do not make equipment for Alaska conditions, but they hire expensive Los Angeles marketing wordsmiths to fool people, instead of just making the better Alaska model. We have to modify all the standard market equipment for Alaska climbing. The market crampons are made for the soft warm ice in the lower 48 States, and only described for the much harder 40-below-0 ice often encountered in the far frozen north. But one of the crew really likes his two new something-brand ice screws that he could afford because they were discounted online because they were dinged up somehow.

Word got out that some of the local pilots were flying between the two towers last month before the two towers were joined, or coming close, so it was suggested that the standard blinking red light be attached to the top. That was done. Quite noticeable from the road, usually not in the web cam. Well it was the cheapest bicycle LED flashing light we could find at the local discount store, on account as it will freeze inside a mass of new ice within day or so. If you are flying low in the area at night, turn on your headlights.

And watch out for UFO's. For some reason UFO's have visited the ice tower every year, several times. Maybe they do not make huge ice towers on other planets. Maybe they recognize the intrigue and esthetics of ice towers on an otherwise well-known planet. Maybe some of the ice crew are not who they are believed to be.

The ice crew made a couple climbs on the camera side of the tower before the belay rope over the top froze in the water from the new nozzle head. That was close. We were able to pull the rope (two ropes tied together), with a lot of pulling. That rope is only 27 years old, and we gotta get our money's worth out of it, or we will not have a rope.

Oh, the official tower measurement auditors, who did not believe the measurement committee, verified the exact height of the tower, bottom of the cliff to top of the tower, at exactly (a few inches more) 157 feet high (14.24 stories high).




16 February (later in day)








17 Feb Web photo




The web cam in the lower left corner of the Ice Shack window.










Iloilo, our Helena Montana Ice Crew member, grabbed these pics from the web cam when we turned the camera to point inside the Ice Shack.









18 February









23 February.........




















Mammuts roamed this area during the previous ice age, and are still to be found around ice and steep places.






























Don Murphy took this photo of the south parapet in full ice-making mode.






More "this is the way it is, or should be, or something like that" back in the Ice Shack after climbing.





And more pictures on page 6 linked below.

Climbing Taxes
The Club
Climbing Concepts 1
Climbing Concepts 2
Climbing Concepts 3
Club Museum
Gullible Climbers
Member Number
Mountain Rescue Fund
Wilderness Classic Race
Posters and Calendars
Posters 2
Ice Towers
Ice Towers Web Cam
03-04 Ice Tower
04-05 Ice Tower
05-06 Ice Tower
07-08 Ice Tower1
07-08 Ice Tower2
07-08 Ice Tower3
07-08 Ice Tower4
07-08 Ice Tower6
07-08 Ice Tower7
07-08 Ice Tower8
Other Ice Towers