By Nick Frazee
This fall Bud Martin, Marko Pujic and I decided to check out a classic early season alpine mixed climb, Funeral for Another Friend in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana. This is an extension to Funeral for a Friend that Aaron Mulkey, Daniel Burson and Doug Shepherd put up in 2011.
We left Bozeman at 4am, made the three and a half hour drive, arrived at the trailhead at first light, packed up and began the two hour approach. Six hours after leaving town we found ourselves at the base of a deep slot splitting beautiful granite towers, the aesthetics of this climb are remarkable, and we soon found that the climbing itself was incredible.
The first pick climbed multiple steps of wet delaminating ice over and around large chockstones deep in the back of a chimney to the base of the crux ice pitch. We found steep, thin, overhanging, sticky ice pouring over more chockstones stacked above one another. Good stemming and fun overhanging moves brought me to a large chockstone I was able to tunnel behind and back out on top of, all with excellent and varied protection. Despite being soaked through my base layers by the contant shower of running water, I was psyched by the time I reached the belay cave at the top. It was one of the most fun pitches I had ever climbed.
The third pictch began by stepping out from below and around yet another enormous chockstone onto a thin slab of ice and continued on snow-covered rock through a large roof and up steep snow to the next belay. The fourth pitch climbed great rock with varied climbing styles including hooks, crimps, pick cracks, a short hand crack and bomber turf sticks. The protection included a bit of everything: stubby screws, a specter in turf, cams, nuts, a slung horn, and a knife blade to round out yet another classic pitch. The following 5th pitch was a gem, a full 70 meter rope stretcher of wet sticky ice in a corner ran through to a large ledge below the final headwall. The mixed terrain through the upper headwall flew by in a flurry of spicy mixed climbing and spat us out onto the rim of the bear tooth plateau just in time to catch some sun and an incredible sunset. We were all elated to have just climbed such an incredible route in such fun conditions, and basked in the sun.
Exhausted and dehydrated we down climbed a neighboring snow couloir back to the base of the route just before dark. We made the hike back out under a star filled sky and a handful of bright shooting stars to top it all off. Twenty two hours after leaving, we pulled into Bozeman, struggling to stay awake at the wheel just a few minutes after last call had been made in the bars along main street. What a surreal sight it was as we watched the drunks loudly stumble into the streets after a long peaceful day in the mountains.