In mid-October, Craig Pope and I made the quasi-annual pilgrimage from Bozeman to Pinedale with hopes held high for favorable mixed climbing conditions in the northern Wind River Range. The weather gods were on our side: We had just enough precipitation during the two-day march in to inspire confidence in the ice conditions and clearing just as we arrived in camp.
We’d chosen a direct line on the north face of Mt. Helen and were hoping for a series of ice runnels to follow through the gut of the mountain. We found lots of 60° black ice, moderate rock, and a series of enjoyable M4 steps where the runnels were supposed to be, punctuated with two distinct and back-to-back cruxes of well- protected 5.10/M6 followed by much spicier, dry 5.9 rock climbing with serious runouts.
We simul-soloed an approach gully over 45° black ice and névé, followed by the lower portion of the face through some M4 terrain, before roping up and using a running belay for the next 700'. We then pitched out the cruxes, running the second near 100m (some simuling) to reach a decent belay anchor. From here we joined previously established terrain, entering a deep left-leaning gully with mixed black ice and very loose rock to finish back right with a low-5th-class chimney that deposited us directly on the summit.
We were just under seven hours on the route, with a lot of time spent stopping to capture video and still images. A strong party could rally the line in five hours or so. La Mirada del la Gitana (The Look of the Gypsy, 2,500', M6). Do they give stars in the AAJ? If so: ****. Descent was the east ridge to the north col, then down the huge north couloir.