Took another traipse around Dutton Mountain Tuesday. The snowpack is still good for walking on top of it, at least mostly, so I put a lot of mileage on the inspection tour this time. The forecast isn’t for warm the way I’d like it, but it’s going to make mush out of the snow up there, so I wanted to get close to a full tour before slogging is the only option.
This time, I parked the car right where Bullhead Pond Outlet crosses Northwoods Club Road, and began from there, hiking under the slopes of Venison Mountain so I could have a look at its flanks as well. Saw a lot of ledgy stuff, nothing large, and no definite ice lines. I crossed the stream that divides Venison from Dutton and began walking along the flank, higher than previous times at first, but soon, ice and steep slopes forced me down to the original bench we used before.
Soon, I spied the first ice Mike and I had seen last week. Two narrow runnels descended from a common headwall tucked uphill and behind some conifers. Switching from hiking pole to crampons and axes, I walked easily up the righthand flow to the base of the headwall. Here, I found out my footwear wouldn’t cut it on steep ice. Literally: I couldn’t get the front points to do much more than chip away at the ice. And my boots were far too flexible to allow serious frontpointing in any case. I shifted my original plan of attack to the left slightly, climbing a groove near the center of the headwall flow. Above, the ice continued, winding up the tree-shaded slope for a couple hundred feet of easy wandering. Chickadee goes at WI2, though that headwall has some WI3 options on it. I didn’t climb the left runnel, but the headwall appears to have similarly difficult steps over there, and there is more ice running up in the woods above.
I walked upslope to lower-angled woods with less ice and continued south. Spying the main ridge ahead, I dropped down again to have a look at the ice tucked in above the Wolf. Knowing now the limits of my crampons, I was a bit hesitant to tackle it, but it was short and angled low enough to make it feasible. It wasn’t all that bad; in “real” gear, Chipmunk would be a fun WI2, having a short crux section at the bottom and of course, that shaded ice in the woods above.
Having done all the ice I was confident doing with the equipment at hand, I set out to find the rock cliff. From the railroad tracks, a large cliff is visible facing south, perched near the upper plateau of Dutton. Sure enough, I rounded a bend, shocked a couple deer, and as they scampered off, I turned to scope out the mountainside. Scruffy, broken ledges here, but over the next rise…? I plodded up one last ridge, and there it was: over a 100′ tall, perhaps 400′ wide in all. Looked pretty broken up, and dirty. Oh well, I brought those climbing shoes for something.
I spend quite awhile working my way up the cliff, defeated time and again by loose rocks, steep dead ends, and the awkward feel of a pack on my back. But somehow, I managed a line not quite up the center, but close enough. There were several moments along the way, if you get my gist. The top is a gradual transition from blocky rock to pine needle and ice slope, in some ways it was the crux of the route climbing that last bit, because I could find no safe haven to change footwear. Climbing shoes do not do well on ice!
It was time to begin heading homeward. I wound circuitously back north, dropping down to look over ice slopes, climbing up to avoid a few of the scarier ones, and in general wandering like a fool all over the place. Not sure I added any knowledge doing that, but I suppose exercise counts for something. Staying higher than normal, I did get to see some nice views as well; a hike up Dutton in summer or autumn would be a rewarding visual experience.
Now there are five ice lines on Dutton. And one rock route, though not a good one. I do think there are some ice lines that form on/near the rock cliff however; if so these would be excellent additons for climbing earlier in the year.