Frozen Assets

This trip report comes from Nate Walsh, a Buyer at Liberty Mountain. Photos by Nathan Smith.

It takes a bit of work to locate the exposure and solitude needed for a true alpine experience in the Wasatch Range. Luckily there is no shortage of adventurous climber at Liberty Mountain. On a recent excursion to try out some remote ice routes in the Wasatch, I teamed up with our Marketing Director, Nathan Smith, to tackle the project of climbing the somewhat unreliable alpine ice route, Frozen Assets near Mount Nebo. When fully formed this route offers 10 pitches and 1,000 vertical feet of moderate ice and mountain climbing in an environment far removed from the comforts of home that destination climbing like Ouray, Bozeman or even Maple Canyon can offer. Frozen Assets is one of the many classic ice lines in the Wasatch.

The route forms from snowmelt and follows the natural low point of a long system of bowls and steppes that can be heavily wind-loaded providing for a fair amount of avalanche danger. Because of the heavy wind loading, the ice often forms over layers of snow and frost and can be thin, making screw selection and placements tricky. When Nathan and I went up, the first six pitches were in, combining the bulk of the vertical gain on the climb and good ice conditions. There are several vertical steppes on the route providing good climbing.

Upon parking the car, the sun looked as though it would come out and provide us with prime conditions. After a 20-minute approach to the base and as soon as we had dropped our packs the sky filled with clouds and temperatures dropped sharply with a breeze coming down the route right at us. I was fortunate enough to lead the first pitch; a nice warm-up before the weather went south. Snow started to fall and the breeze was beginning to gust at us by the time Nathan was leading up the second pitch. Things suddenly got interesting once the spindrifts began.

The fifth pitch featured a nice little gully with vertical ice and good stemming options. As I started up, the ice broke under my left foot and made the situation a little bit heady. A nice batch of spindrift dropped snow on my head as I hung on my tools unable to raise my head – good alpine conditions! By the 6th pitch the storm was dumping on us and the wind was blowing the snow right down the gully. As I pulled the lip of the final steppe to go up the snow slope to a tree belay, the snow was so heavy and the wind so strong that I couldn’t see more than 15-20 feet in front of me. There was nothing to do but put my head down, grab my tools, and put one foot in front of the other and slog my way to the belay. My face was freezing and I couldn’t feel my fingers – I just knew I was going to get a nice bought of the screaming-barfies.

The escape was quick and easy, and the temperature seemed to rise again as soon as we started coming down, as though the mountain relented as soon as we relinquished our designs to conquer it.

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