Joe's Valley - Spear of Fear. February 2013

Spear of Fear WI5/6, the most coveted line in Joe's Valley. It's a 3 pitch line that only forms ever 3-4 years and even then is only climbable for a couple of days when it does. 

Spear of Fear is a rough 1/2 mile hike up this side canyon and hidden on the left side of the photo. You can just catch a glimpse of white ice through the trees.

Spear of Fear is a rough 1/2 mile hike up this side canyon and hidden on the left side of the photo. You can just catch a glimpse of white ice through the trees.

The first 2 approach pitches are only partially visible.

The first 2 approach pitches are only partially visible.

Jake Hirschi on the first pitch of the Spear of Fear.

Jake Hirschi on the first pitch of the Spear of Fear.

Jake's proud lead to the base of the main cone on the upper tier follows the right side of the ice. Only one of his screws were any good.  A fall from the upper half would have been a deck-fall.

Jake's proud lead to the base of the main cone on the upper tier follows the right side of the ice. Only one of his screws were any good.  A fall from the upper half would have been a deck-fall.

I first got on the Spear of Fear in 2002 with my wife Cheri and a friend but was shut down 20' from the top as the ice was slush and could not get anything to stick.  We had waited until too late in the day to get on it and it had melted out too much to climb.  This time Jake Hirschi, Nate and I went much earlier and found the first two approach pitches super easy and in much better shape…although Jake was still crying about having to lead the "scary" WI2 second pitch. I'll give it to him though as his only good ice screw was placed below the bottom of this photo and he had to go all the way to the ledge without gear.

 

On the way up, water was running heavily on the pillar and we thought we would get drenched.  In 2002 I got so soaked late in the day that I became hypothermic and had 1" of ice form on the top of my helmet and my glasses were totally covered in ice.  Amazingly once we racked up at the base, the water completely stopped. Not sure what happened. My best guess is that the sun had melted a channel into the ice that morning that funneled the water inside rather than on top of the climb. 

After giving Jake a quick overview of my camera and fixing the settings for the light, I spent over 40 min working my way up the shady side, having cauliflower ears break , large sections of pillar hit me in the head and face and finding mostly bad screw placements in the steep crux. Luckily Jake and Nate were patient and did not yank me off the line while I shook out for 5-10 minutes at a time before moving to the next stance. I might have taken in a couple of spots but my screws were so bad that I could not trust them to hold bodyweight so had to continue on. I then tried to place as many bad screws as possible hoping that multiple screws might at least slow my fall or give me the confidence to go on. Seemed to work…

Nathan Smith working up the Spear of Fear. The sunny section to the left would have been much easier but was so sun rotted that the only climbable line was the shade line.

Nathan Smith working up the Spear of Fear. The sunny section to the left would have been much easier but was so sun rotted that the only climbable line was the shade line.

Nearing the top only to find a large horizontal fracture right above my helmet.

Nearing the top only to find a large horizontal fracture right above my helmet.

 

I made it through this section pumped out of my mind and clipped the chains another 30' above the top of the photo. 

After back hiking down we grabbed lunch then started walking into the Donorcicle for another few pitches when Nate slipped on some black ice and broke his leg in 3 places. Luckily we were not too far from the car and we were able to carry him back down the dirt road to the car. It could have been much worse.