The following season wrap-up is by Wyoming-based Aaron Mulkey, who told us, “For the record, I hate giving grades to climbs as you will see in my Instagram posts.
“Many of these routes have not been repeated so I prefer to sandbag my ratings a bit until someone repeats them. At the end of the day I feel like ratings are more about peoples egos than the actual climb so I typically choose not to give them grades.” For the record, we asked Mulkey for the grades.
The chase for ice started early this year with an ascent of Wyoming Outlaw WI4 on Sept. 23.
That taste of ice got my fire burning early and by Oct. 17. Doug Shepherd and I put up the first big new route of the season deep in the Beartooths. Light Before Fire M7 was named after Hayden Kennedy.
I didn’t know Hayden super well, but the moments I had with him made an impact.
Doug and I only know one way to cope with loss and that was to just get into the mountains and immerse ourselves.
My goal was to focus on mixed climbing and competition this year and I would say the mixed climbing focus went well, but certainly not my competition performances.
I think I will be remembered by my patented figure-five at the Colorado Springs City Rock comp. Watch below.
By Dec. 16, the season was in full swing and my partner Justin Keeler and I made the best of prime conditions and tagged some rare forming first ascents, like Repent and Tiny Dancer WI5.
I then focused my attention on a drip I have looked at for many years. I was able to place a handful of bolts to protect the mixed climbing that connected the two major ice features on the wall.
The Unicorn M7 WI5 is a show stopper and although it will rarely form I believe people will get a full value experience on this route.
The next new route was another multi pitch which I believe is one of the South Forks finest mixed routes. Fantasy Factory M9 WI5 is located in an amazing venue tucked deep in the slot canyons of the Deer Creek drainage.
After a day skiing up the North Fork of the Shoshone I spotted another line I have looked at for many years, but never thought it would actually touch.
Sure enough it was, so I called every partner I could. It wasn’t easy getting a climbing partner wanting to climb New Year’s Day, but Shawn Gregory answered my call.
We established Goldline WI4 and it only took us 45 minutes to hike to the base.
On March 3, Doug Shepherd, Justin Keeler and I set our sites on a new route I had scoped out a few weeks earlier. To our surprise it ended up being bigger and better than we could have imagined.
Continuing my posts on this seasons First Ascents. “Fantasy Factory” did not disappoint. This is me on the second pitch psyched to finally reach the ice and get my weight back on my feet. I have no doubt this route will become a South Fork favorite for anyone looking to mix things up. Huge thanks to @dpshepherd and @venator.de.alpine for the long cold belays to get this rig completed.
Every pitch was unique and engaging. We kept thinking it was going to end, but it just kept going. Clean Coal M7R was an unexpected surprise ending for the season and was one of those routes that took a couple of days to get over the high.
In between all of this I worked on various projects that will unfortunately have to wait until next year, but its sorta nice to have some projects to keep me motivated through the summer months. In fact I might work on a few this summer.
Were there any close calls this year? No close calls this year, just a couple of late nights thats for sure.
It seems as I get older the close calls become less and less. Perhaps I’m getting wiser with age!
How do you keep the new-route motivation so high? I love chasing new routes, its really the main thing that keeps me going. The unknown factor is probably what I like the most, its hard to get worked up over a route or sandbagged when you have no idea what you’re going to get into.
Its incredibly fulfilling to climb something that has never been climbed before. There are so many objectives I have looked at for years that need a lot of time and effort put into them to climb.
The rock here in the South fork is much like “kitty Litter” so bolts are needed for many of the new mixed routes I’m doing.
In some cases It takes multiple days to put these routes up. You hike in a couple miles, then climb a few pitches and gain a few thousand feet elevation and then you get to your project. You really have to commit to the time and energy it takes to get these routes put up.
There is a sick love/hate relationship with the whole process, but once I send the route all the suffering is forgotten. Then to see other people go and climb the routes I have put up is perhaps even more fulfilling.