After the unexpected delay due to my battery that was detailed in the last post, it was later in the evening by the time I made it down the south fork of the Shoshone River. There was still a little light, so I was able to see drive all the way to the end and make some plans for Christmas. There were some ice climbers in one of the crevices that I could see from the road.
The south fork has so many beautiful, frozen waterfalls that people come from all over to climb the ice. Here is a shot of another frozen fall I could see on the east side of the valley from the road, although I am not sure if it is a climable fall or not.
There were 2 areas of the Deer Creek campground that had tents set up, which I assumed were for ice climbers. Even though it was not dark yet, I found a spot and parked for the evening. Malaki and I walked a little and looked at deer, and then I heard the familiar crack of rams butting heads. We moved to where we had an open view, and I was able to locate 2 rams butting heads high on the cliff right above Deer Creek. I was not able to get a good angle for a picture, but I was able to listen to them as we ate dinner and got ready for bed.
Upon awaking Christmas morning, there were quite a few sheep on the hills where I could see them. I believe that I have previously mentioned that the sheep seem to move to the steep cliffs later in the evening through the morning hours for increased safety.
It was still not very light, so I drove to the end of the road and then back up. Mainly I was looking for some buck deer (all I saw was doe) and seeing if any other ice climbers were up and moving since the ones at the campground weren’t.
There was a car parked along the road at one of the ice falls I have taken pictures of before. On that occasion, I had gone up the canyon and taken pictures from a small knob that was not even as high as the lowest fall. Since then, I had mapped out a climb in my mind that I thought might give me a better view, but I really didn’t know. Seeing there was someone there, it seemed like the perfect time to try it. On the next photo, I labelled where I was for most of the time and the best path to get up the ridge in case someone else wants to try it. It is steep in spots, but not too bad. There are also one or two narrow spots, but none that are unmanageable.
The next shot was where I first saw the climbers from, and just on the other side of this is where I spent the most time.
While I did first see the climbers on the lower first fall, I did not get any pictures of them on it because I got distracted by some bighorn sheep on the opposite side of the canyon.
If it had just been rams sleeping or harrassing ewes, it would not have been too much of a distraction. What really caught my attention is when some of the rams began butting. These shots will not be zoomed in like those in the last post, so go there if you want more “power” shots. Those shots were on safe, flat terrain. Watching them fight on the steep hillside was an entirely different experience. Rocks careening down the mountainside and the persistance of some, even near cliffs, made it seem much more serious. I wanted to leave the shots wider to try and show this.
The upper ram wasn’t giving up, and I think he would have pushed the lower ram over the edge if he could.
While both rams walked away from this, it gave me the feeling that sometimes accidents happen. Watching a ram chase a ewe showed how quickly they could negotiate the hillsides and adjust( I wish I could put the video right here), but that doesn’t involve getting shoved against your will..
While it seems dangerous, the rams are being driven by instinct and the desire to reproduce. I wouldn’t consider them crazy. The ice climbers on the other hand…yeah, I think they have to be a little crazy. I understand it. The satisfaction of reaching a goal each time you make the top of a fall is probably exhilarating. I was feeling some of it from just hiking to the same altitude as them for the photos, and I am sure some would call me crazy. I was safe the whole time, and while it seems there is more potential for something to go wrong, I bet a trained climber knows safe versus unsafe ice and is actually pretty safe the whole time.
I watched them climb the second fall. You can see 2 higher falls in the first picture, and I think there are some you can’t see.
Once they were past this fall, I did not see them again. There was a higher fall I was hoping to see them at, but when I left around lunch time they still had not reached it. Not only is it big, but there are large trees in front of it, which would really make a fabulous shot with a climber above the trees. It does look like the middle is thinner (through the trees) and it may be hollow behind the ice, so I am not sure if it is a climbable fall or not.
While I was waiting for them, I did get to watch on of the rams make its way quickly down the other side, and then up the side I was on. The speed with which they can cover ground on such steep slopes is amazing.
After hiking back to the FJ, I took one last look at the upper falls. The one I focused on before is in the middle, and you can see another tall fall above it.
Part of me wishes I had stayed all day to see how far up the climbers went, but I am also glad I ended up getting over the mountain and home before dark on Christmas.
The last photo from my trip back out from south fork seems to be a message to hunters saying “I lost it naturally, not to you”