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Trip Report: New Mixed Route in Glacier NP

Jeff Shapiro on Ventriculostomy (M7 R) on the south face of Mt. Brown, Glacier National Park. This is one of the better butt shots the editorial staff has seen. [Photo] Christopher Gibisch

With a full season of hopes for rock and alpine climbing just around the corner, Chris Gibisch and I decided to head into the mountains of Glacier National Park for a bit of adventure and training. Our plan was to meet with a good friend and strong alpinist, Justin Woods, in Whitefish before skiing into the Snyder Lake cirque with intentions of climbing on the adventurous north face of Mt. Edwards.

Unfortunately, work and obligations, coupled with a long drive resulted in a 4 a.m. wake up time that came far too early. Not far into the long ski up to the cirque, over exertion and no sleep left Justin violently ill, and he opted to bail. Between dry heaves, he gave us the gear and showed the grit we know him for by shouting encouragement as he carried his skis back down the icy switchbacks.

Chris and I skinned up the trail as fast as we could, but the time spent with our friend puking his guts out had the sun rising faster than we would have wished. Our plans evolved, and we decided to shift our attention to the Brain Stem Wall on the south face of Mt. Brown.

Ventriculostomy (M7 R) [Photo] Christopher Gibisch

The Brain Stem Wall is a band of sedimentary rock (of the Proterozoic age) capped by Grinnell Limestone and containing both moderate and steep ice climbs as well as some test-piece mixed routes. Knowing that there was still a plum or two to be picked, we were hopeful that we could find something new to do. As we skinned up the final approach slopes, we spotted a line that, surprisingly, neither of us had even considered in past visits. On top of a short, fifty-foot blocky tower lay a line of steep cracks splitting through small roofs with faint patches of verglass and daggers occasionally pouring out from their depths. It was a surprise that we were lucky to discover.

Chris and I arrived at the base where the now blazing sun sent a bombardment of debris from above. An hour or so later, weather rolled in and cooled things down so we could safely climb. Chris climbed the first pitch, an awkward, icy corner leading into a clean dihedral where he holstered his tools and climbed bare handed. Above, the crux pitch played out with tricky gear and some interesting run-outs.

For us, climbing a new route in the Park is always a special day. We decided to call it Ventriculostomy (M7 R) because of the line’s character and to match the existing theme of the wall. Although it was just a day of training, we arrived home late that night with another great memory from the mountains.