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Black (Ice) Is Back

March 18th, 2009 · No Comments · Climbs, Entertainment

In the late Fall of 2008, with Tristen “Trippy” Sieleman, an extremely funny and good looking (might come in handy for spooning on a bivouac) man who I met through his girlfriend, Carrie Dagher, one of the funnest, most loving and positive people I know (and sexy as hell to boot), I returned to the Black Ice Couloir to connect once again.

Once a Teton classic ice climb, the Black Ice has dwindled in recent years from a combination of rising temperatures and dwindling snow. The prolific winter of ’07/’08 coupled with fortuitous September storms had me believing an ascent would be possible.

The footage for this video was shot primarily with a VIO POV camera I mounted on my helmet. Additional footage was shot with a couple of digital cameras.

I have a long and interesting history with the Black Ice, with many ascents and the only snowboard descent that involved some belayed turns, a rappel and a whole lot of what I used to think of as “fun.”

I had attempted the Black Ice with the intent to descend it on my snowboard 2 times before finally making turns on her exceedingly steep and exposed terrain. First time was solo and the second was with the late Alex Lowe, an alpine and ice climbing mentor of mine who was truly a gifted, positive and extremely motivated alpinist. Alex died after being hit by a massive avalanche that buried him on Shishapangma while ascending the SW Face. I occasionally still tap into his positive energy.

When I climbed the Black Ice alone I knew I needed a partner for this descent. With Alex, after making the ascent of the BI with our gear, we weren’t fired up enough to attempt the descent in the current conditions – very snow covered but with a fairly gnarly crust that would have made turning in control even more difficult than turning on 50+ degree terrain with huge exposure requires.

As a consolation for our efforts we skied and snowboarded from the upper saddle to the lower saddle and decided to climb and make the second descent of the NW Ice Couloir on the Middle Teton. I had completed the premier descent earlier in the season while working at the lower saddle.

I was scared watching Alex ski the NW couloir in, if I remember correctly, his mountaineering boots. He wasn’t going to fall, but I didn’t know that for sure at the time and his slightly out of control looking turns didn’t lend confidence. I had been with people who had lost control on my first two big routes in the Tetons, the Middle and the Grand. They took falls/slides and I thought I was going to witness someone die. They didn’t and I started soloing after that. I figured I needed my mental energy to take care of myself when doing the wild mountain descents.

Went back to BI with Mark Newcomb and snowboarded much of it…that is another story all its own that I don’t have time for at the moment but look forward to sharing soon.

Black is Back! Or at least was in wild mixed scary (loose rock) alpine conditions for another moment in time. But what is our time, and the time that the Black Ice was in over the past several hundred/thousand years anyway? A moment in the scheme of time, albeit a slightly longer moment than during this scrappy ascent…

Help support StephenKoch.com with the V.I.O. POV Video Camera from Backcountry.com. This is the POV camera used to shoot most of this movie!

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