stillwater river

just a week back now from a ‘somewhat’ successful trip down the stillwater in montana.

great fun, some awesome rafting, and plenty of suffering. thanks to all who helped in the planning phases (tom turiano, ryan jordan) and those who helped sam out with a good boat (sheri). we had a helmet cam along so may get some good footage up here eventually. in the meantime, check out the following link for tom grundy’s trip report and some photos…


Man… that trip sounded like a pure suffer-fest. I’m surprised there wasn’t more carnage. I was just on Gannett and went out the Green with a friend and we were talking about one day trying a Granite climbing / rafting trip; I’m beginning to rethink it now!!! :laughing:

Is the north couloir the obvious couloir almost to the summit in this pic?

the photo you’ve got is of glacier peak - the couloir up the center that you mention is the becky couloir. our original plan was to summit granite, then hike to below this face and summit glacier via this couloir. after the difficulties faced on granite though, and our tight timeline - we scrapped the climb on glacier. it was just as well though - the travel to the glacier creek/stillwater confluence took a lot longer than we optimistically projected. The kahtoola crampons, while they were ultralight - only had 10 points as well, which made front-pointing up steep ice/snow impossible. we’d been told that if we did glacier we would need to get a super early start to get up the ice when it was still hard to avoid rock-fall (you can tell by looking at the face that the main couloir funnels a huge region of the upper wall) - so at the time it was easy to rationalize the change in plans. i hear this climb is amazing though.

we’d also hoped to have pack weights around 20 pounds when all the climbing gear was being used, but they weren’t quite that light. (more like 25 or so) this sounds light, but with the pace we were trying to move, we were exhausted after getting up granite (:


btw - we cut the climbing rope and let it play double duty as throw bag rope - worked reasonably well, except that it of course doesn’t float. i didn’t think this would matter, but the one time we needed to use the rope was when i’d ended up river right after a long and brutal swim and needed to get back river right. i’d lost my paddle and raft, and so had to swim from a boulder 1/3 of the way acrossed and catch the bag tossed from 1/3 of the way from the other shore. i was beat up, freezing cold, and did not want to miss the bag and end up being flushed further down the nasty rapids. the bag was tossed nearly perfectly, but the rope disappeared quickly. there was a brief panic as i dug deep under the water to come up with the rope and pendulum to into an eddy just in time.

Scott Solle’s poly-pro coated dyneema (or Spectra?) in a 50 foot length could work as a double rope on lead – sounds like you guys needed a throw rope more than a belay rope…

roman - doesn’t dyneema/spectra have very little stretch? wouldn’t using it as a ‘double’ lead rope be potentially dangerous in the event of a fall (extreme shock load, etc). especially with our spaghetti harnesses… just wondering


Yes, dyeneema/spectra is very static! Jugging it is like climbing cable.

However, I was in Borneo looking for the world’s tallest tropical trees with some Ozzie friends of mine, when one of them, jugging on a un-properly tested line set, broke the anchor branch and fell what we figured was 15 m. He was unhurt and got right back on it. This was on 8 mm dyneema. He had a line set at maybe 50 m up so there was about 100 m of line out.

More than likely you won’t take a whipper and if you do, the rope will likely save your life not take it, even if wicked static. We used to do a lot of glacier travel on 5 mm kevlar in the 80’s and 90’s. We never took a fall, but felt a lot better with the rope on than off. Granted, glacier travel is not like leading on rock, but if you’re doing stuff where you’re unlikely to fall, but if you did you’d die without a rope, then using something like a dual 5 mm dyneema might not be so bad.

roman - what kind of belay setup were you running with 5mil? i guess for glacier work you’re likely not belaying much at all, or just employing body/boot axe belays. for lead climbing though i wonder what would work… the tiblocs only work down to 8mm i think. it’s definitely an interesting idea… especially for ridge traverses and/or mountaineering type routes where you just need to jump off the other side. what did you use to ascend the 5mil? what about abseiling?




You have to remember that I am an nearing old man status, that I learned to climb leading with a hip belay tied to twisted goldline with a bowline on a coil (honestly!). This was back in the days when we really didn’t want to fall. And then in my ice days, it was wart hogs and old Chouinard screws that we didn’t trust: again, no falls allowed. Then the alpine climbing days where the pro was all psychological at best…

So with that kind of background, we used hip belays with the five mil kevlar (!). And we rapped on carabiner brakes; however, the aluminum crabs were only worth a few raps on the wet, dirty kevlar and got heavily grooved.

BTW Matt Hage, Joe Stock, and I played around with Scot Solles’s rope using tiblocks with smaller 'biners (Matt’s Camp 'biners, I think, super small) and managed to ascend (we put in a tree). You just have to be pretty aware of what you are doing.