Author Archives: patrick-odenbeck

Going big and going home – The first ascent of the Pisce Wall


About a year ago, my friend Tom mentioned that there was an alpine wall way back in the Beartooth Wilderness that not only had not seen an ascent, but had no name.  He had done a reconnaissance trip in 2009 to see what this thing looked like and exactly what it would take to get back there.  He told me about a 20+ mile approach, much of which was off trail and through swamps, down timber and difficult orienteering.  Apparently, other parties had tried to access the wall from different locations, but all had been skunked.  Often called the Phantom Wall or the Secret Wall, the details were undeniably intriguing.  Tom’s pictures showed it to be steep, littered with cracks, and beautiful.  I had to at least see it.

My enthusiasm grew, which only stoked Tom’s interest in an attempt. Once we persuaded Tom’s brother Pat to come along (an easy sell), our team was complete.  Pat’s experience with dreaded offwidth cracks rounded out our skill set and  and set us up to handle anything this mountain could throw at us.  Since August typically has a short weather window, we decided that a week in the middle of the month … READ MORE >

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Monumental Elegance

Bridger Jacks Moon3

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The desert has always inspired me with its clean crisp air and the stark contrast between the iron red dirt and cerulean sky.  A time in my life existed where I would go to places like these for weeks at a time, climbing and soaking in the surroundings, while living virtually on pennies.  Though it was a simple existence, it burned into my memory as a time of focus and reflection- – a period when I could breathe unobstructed by the constrictive ways of modern life.  When each morning you would wake to the sunrise screams of Peregrine Falcons echoing  from high sandstone walls, and observe the almost defiant way the desert sirens its guests in with an unnameable beauty, and stillness.  Recently I had the chance to visit some of these places again with my friend Justin Griffin, a strong and talented climber from Bozeman with a lust for life.  We had a week to soak up the sun, climb, and maybe get a chance to breathe.

Stop 1: City of Rocks

Eager, with the car ride taking a toll, we decided to stop for a quick pump in Idaho’s City of Rocks.  Granite sport climbing seemed a great … READ MORE >

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Hellmouth Couloir

Hellmouth Couloir is the anemic line dead center on Alex Lowe Peak.

Hellmouth Couloir is the thin aesthetic line dead center on Alex Lowe Peak.

In the Spring of 1997 Alex Lowe and Hans Saari made the first descent of an anemic ski line they nicknamed “Hellmouth Couloir” in the Gallatin Mountains of Montana. For years the exact location of this line had been lost and it gained mythical status. On September 15th 2005 a peak in the Gallatin National Forest was named “Alex Lowe Peak” for the memory of Alex who had unfortunately passed October 5, 1999 in an avalanche on the slopes of Shishapangma in Tibet. It was then unveiled to many that the Hellmouth Couloir was located on this peak. Kyle and a partner through research found a Summer photo of the peak and along with a brief description that Saari and Lowe had made they discovered the location of the line. Then in the Winter of 2006 they made the second known descent of Hellmouth Couloir. Over the past 4 years a few others have made the descent. Kyle has visited the area many times since 2006 but has been unable to make another descent of the couloir.

Jump to present day. Kyle just got back from a … READ MORE >

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Killer Snow

Ymir Ridge

After four hours of driving through the interior of British Columbia we arrived at our destination: the Ymir Motel, in the forgotten gold mining town of the same name. This place is the staging area for most trips into the Ymir backcountry–and, it’s cheap, $12 per person per night cheap–by sharing rooms.  Turns out the owner of the hotel is an art collector and purchased the 18 room hotel for his prized possessions, thousands of painting of all styles, covering every wall. Imagine a museum crossed with a nineteenth century brothel. We slept well under the smug smell of oil paint while dreams of pillow lines ran through our heads.

Back in November a group of us decided to plan a trip to a backcountry cabin or yurt in Canada. The beauty of the Ymir Yurts is its blend of cat skiing and your more standard backcountry self propulsion. The terrain and deep access was hard to beat. Using both snowmobiles and a snowcat, you’re dropped roughly 32 K from the nearest road.

Overnight the area had received much more snow than predicted–about two feet, and the next morning it was still nuking. One of the snowcat guides wore a … READ MORE >

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Frazier Basin

Myself on the Hollywood Headwall

Last Friday, five of us met at the Daily Bread parking lot at 5:30 AM for dawn patrol.   Kyle had made it up to Frazier Basin on Wednesday, they found stable conditions and the skiing excellent.  Once I heard the possibility of going up on Friday, especially since Kyle has access to two snowmobiles slashing the multi-hour skin to Frazier Basin to less than a 30 minute tow- I was in.  This was my first time to Frazier and I must say I was blown away.  The North Bridgers have so many aesthetic looking couloirs- it is like God himself has carved each mountain vertically with a giant fork.

The red glow of the sunrise hit us just as we made it to the saddle, we then prepared ourselves for our descent into the basin.  One at a time we skied down the North facing access bowl making huge GS turns.  The snow was soft, fast  and predictable, this entrance into the basin was the perfect indication that it was going to be a great day.  Because we went in on sleds, and the nature of the lines we intended to ski, we all had brought our “heavy” alpine gear- … READ MORE >

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Curing Cabin Fever


After Outdoor Retailer Dave Downing and I, plus 4 others, one dog and a ridiculous amount of gear strategically stuffed ourselves into a minivan and set off toward Carbondale, CO. Carbondale is where I grew up and I was excited to revisit after about a 10 year hiatus. Dave and I had planned to ski some of the backcountry outside of Marble, which is about an hour drive outside of Carbondale. Unfortunately avalanche conditions turned from bad to worse when a strong Southern storm dropped about 3 feet of fluff in 2-3 days. Our suspicions of instability were vindicated once we had heard reports of large slides being remotely triggered in Marble. We immediately opted for a whole new approach for our days in Colorado.

The author sampling some silky pow.

Dave looking good as always.

Low angle slopes and snowmobiling on safe open meadows was the obvious and reliable option- and the best remedy for my cabin fever. One area in particular, a local standby when conditions are questionable near Sunlight Ski Resort called Willie’s proved to have great skiing.

Yours truly hucking a small cornice

With only around 1200′ of vertical multiple laps are possible and with little … READ MORE >

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The poison is seeping in and there is nothing I can do about it…

But let me back up a bit.

I have phobias even though I hate to admit it.  Some people, namely my wife, gladly shares with others that I have many.  Most of these fears come from the fact that I am allergic to just about everything, cats, horses, penicillin, pollen etc.  I have also been known to be paranoid of other things  like when I found some perfect boulders up here in Montana.  I instantly became suspicious of everyone.  Who should I tell?  Should I reveal the sacred loaction?

The author working a project on the Pagoda Boulder

After much deliberation and banter around the office I decided that I might as well throw a couple pics out there.  Everyone reassured me that the hordes will not be crawling over the boulders like they might in Colorado.

Aaron on the fun problem Sour Mash

As we work some of the problems, thirsty wasps were drinking the sweat off my legs and arms.  One of these black and yellow insects inadvertently gets caught in the hem of my shorts and proceeds to wallop me twice in the … READ MORE >

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City of Rocks


Kevin Brumbach into the goods on Crack of Doom

Occasionally I have some time to leave the gentle embrace of Bozeman.  This Summer has had an unusual amount of precipitation making such departures even more mandatory.   The City Rocks in southern Idaho is a classic American rock climbing mecca that has eluded my many rock climbing tours. With 30% chance of precipitation in the forecast for the third weekend in a row, Kevin’s suggestion of a 6 hour drive to climb for the weekend seemed reasonable. Through sales office banter Kyle was able evoke my plan and quickly invited himself along. I was quietly elated knowing that a third would be a welcome rest for leader or belayer.

Friday afternoon Kyle and I left to meet Kevin down in the City with plenty of PBR and elk steaks.  No self respecting Montanan will part with either of these two elements.  Dark set in and so did the potato fields which continue to haunt us with their bleak and unexciting scenery.  Eventually we hit unpaved roads missed turns, double backed, and eventually found our way to “the city”.

There is nothing like arriving somewhere in the dark, then when to wake … READ MORE >

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Perfect Granite

About 40 miles North of Vancouver, where the ocean touches the land, the second largest granite monolith in North America jets virtually straight up from sea to sky.  The perfect granite of Squamish, British Columbia is littered with so many beautiful features and climbing history, and neither of Loni or I had been there before. We intended to climb and experience this mystical place for ourselves.  After leaving Montana late Wednesday night we made it to Squamish around 3 PM Thursday afternoon.  We set up camp below the Chief.  The Chief one of the cleanest pieces of granite I have ever seen and gazed upon it with jaws agape.

Once we had settled down we made the casual approach over to the area called the Bulletheads.  We ventured up some fixed lines and jumped on the rock.

Loni putting a new generation Snapdragon to the test.

Starting with some cruiser stuff to get used to the rock and get our bodies loose after the 13+ hours of driving.     That night it became apparent that the atmosphere in the campground was quite relaxed.  It was a climbing tailgate party!  People could be found cooking behind their vehicles, sharing food and beers … READ MORE >

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Thailand Day 26: Chang Mai/Lampang Elephant Conservation Center


This morning we woke up pseudo-early because we had to do some errands and get to our tour for the Elephant Conservation Center.  I had to drop off the scooter and Loni had to get some snacks and water as well as book another night here at TK House.  All of this had to happen before 0800 and it did pretty much.  Our guide that we met from Pooh Eco-Tourism name was Naret.  He grew up in Lampang where the Elephant Conservation Center is located outside of.  We jumped in his personal Isuzu track and drove the 1.5 hours to Lampang.  We were not sure what to expect of the place at all- but it was amazing.

Joining in the elephant train.

They have about 120 Asian Elephants divided into three groups (riding, show and white).  The show elephants are used to display how the elephants were used in the past to move timber and assist with logging.

The riding elephants for riding and the rare white elephants are partial albino elephants which only 11 of which exist are for the king.  Loni and I went on a short elephant ride through the forest- very cool.  The ride was a … READ MORE >

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