Friday, December 30, 2011

Dispatches from the Ouray Ice Park


The warm weather has made for "hero" ice conditions in the ice park. The softened, but not overly melting ice makes of endless one-swing-stick-bliss! If you were ever thinking of getting on a particularly hard ice climbing now is the time while the ice is as user friendly as ever.

I have had the pleasure of exploring ice technique with a number of wonderful folks from all over the country over the last few days. We have hung out in the Scottish Gullies, The School Room, and South Park going through the San Juan Mountain Guides' Ice Curriculum.

We start with no tools on low angle ice to learn to trust the crampons and to develop solid foot work and stability. Next we incorporate one tool. Here we learn to swing and where the tool goes relative to the rest of our body position. Last, we put all the pieces together with both tools and swing and kick our way with  perfect form up the ice until our forearms turn to jelly!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kids Ice Climbing College

Future San Juan Mountain Guide?

Every year at San Juan Mountain Guides we run a number of free kids climbing clinics at the Ice Park. It is pretty remarkable to be able to offer young kids the chance to try out a sport once reserved only for adults. We are the only people in the world I know of who have a fleet of specially modified ice tools for kids to try ice climbing.

Guides helping future ice masters get roped up and ready to go!
The guides of SJMG, people with experience climbing ice all over the country and the world, coach kids up the ice, teaching them to balance on their crampons while they swing into the ice. It is fun watching kids problem solve their way to the tops of the climbs and gratifying to see their smiles when they notice the view from the top.

World famous mountaineers to be take their first steps.
Swingin' and kickin' to the top!
These future ice masters rocked the ice park yesterday. Kids clinics are for kids 8-17 and are totally free. All of the clinics are at the upper bridge at the Ouray Ice Park. Here are the 2012 dates:
Sat, Jan 7, 10a-3p
Sun, Jan 8, 10a-2p
Sun, Feb12, 12p-4p
Click here for details. See you there!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

I had a wonderful day out in Eureka yesterday with Liba. It was our second day out in the backcountry working on leading skills. Liba did a GREAT job leading the second pitch and then taking us to the top. Stairway is in pretty good shape and the approach about as easy as it gets - although it started snowing as we left. Thanks for a fantastic day Liba.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ouray Ice Park Time!

We all eagerly awaited like children in front of the case at the local chocolate shop Mouse's Chocolates as we watched the ice park grow faster and faster as the weather got cold. Our anticipation built with the ice in the park until finally... it opened.

I spent two days climbing in the Ouray Ice Park with Russell form CO. He had never tried ice climbing before but wanted to expand his outdoor recreation repertoire. During our time together we built Russell's foundation on low angle ice. He quickly grasped the technique and moved on to steeper climbing.

It was really fun getting to hang in the ice park with Russell and revisit some of my favorite climbs in the park. It was a treat to get to work on the finer points of kicking and swinging and balancing our way up  any one of over 200 freshly frozen ice climbs . Thanks for a great day Russell.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ouray Ice: Dexter Slabs

Dexter Slabs, 4 pitches

Mt. Ridgway
While Ouray is known for the Ouray Ice Park set to open next weekend, there is also a great deal of backcountry ice climbs that make for nice beginner and intermediate excursions outside the park. I climbed one of these, Dexter Slabs, with my roommates yesterday. It was Whitney's first multi-pitch ice climb and she did great! This climb is a great first tall climb with straightforward climbing, steep sections, rappelling off v-threads, and of course, great views. All in all it is certainly a full value outing and I can't wait to show more folks this great climb.

Good times high above the Uncompahgre River Valley
For people thinking about a trip to the San Juans who really want to check out the ice I often recommend a 2-4 day itinerary. Day 1 in the park learning the basics, day 2 on a beginner multi pitch climb like Dexter Slabs. Usually we take days 3 and 4 to get on some bigger, harder climbs or for a day of skiing! We look forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I had a great day climbing Bird Brain.
I had the opportunity to climb it with my girl friend Annie it was her first time climbing the route and she had a blast!!!!!!
The route it is in great condition. It is more ice on the lower than the upper part of the route, making some upper pitches little more interesting that other years.
It has been a big time clean up on the route in terms of old manky pins and old anchors, so plan on bringing little more gear for anchors.
Ha!!! the pillar on the second pitch it is pretty awesome. PLEASE be gentle with it !!!!
Hands down it is my favorite route in the San Juan's.

In the next couple of days I will be heading to the Talisman. I have been looking at it for the past couple of weeks and I think it is looking like potentially could go. Little on the LUNATIC side of climbing but it will go. Let you guys know how it is hopefully soon.

Other than that this season is awesome so far so come and climb and keep it SAFE !!!!

Best Regards

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ouray Ice: The Ribbon

Matt and I were back at it today checking out the Ouray ice conditions and they are great. For one, with the cold temps the ice park looks bigger every day and should be open before you know it. The whole Skylight area is very much in right now. The new snow and the warm days have been refreshing the climbs that were getting a bit hacked out. It should look like new up there in time for the weekend.

Today however, Matt and I got on The Ribbon. This is the striking line you can see from the Camp Bird parking area. The first pitch was a bit spicy. While the tool sticks were good, the protection was a bit tricky due to the aerated and thin ice with no real pro in the easier climbing low down. The second and Third pitches are in great shape however and are totally worth the run out on the first one.

Many people seem to miss the bolted anchors on this route. There is one at the top of the snow ramp that is sometimes a first pitch on the right. The pitch 1 anchors are just past the steep part on the left. The anchors at the top of pitch 2 are on the right twenty or so feet below the second steep part. The final pitch ends at some bolts on the right you should not have to use the manky pin anchor above the good bolt one. Rap the route with 2 60m raps and grab a beer and burger!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ouray Backcountry Ice

Visiting guide Matt H. and I climbed Horsetail Falls today. The creek crossing was a bit tricky. But with the recent cold temps there was ample ice to get across. With so little snow it got a bit scrappy getting up the cleft that leads to the climb. The climb itself is in good shape, though it is still early season ice. Which is to say, there is plenty of ice to climb but it has lots of cauliflower and candles still.

That first pitch is definitely the "money pitch" of the climb but the upper pitches are quite fun as well. Matt and I romped our way to the top and walked off. The day's warming made for a tricky creek crossing on the way out but we managed with no soaked feet. We were able to take a look across at Bear Creek Falls which appears to need much more cold weather to form.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Skiing Red Mountain Pass

Had a lovely day yesterday with Kathy H out on Red Mountain Pass. Kathy is working to hone her backcountry skiing skills so we headed out on the slopes of McMillon and Ohio Peaks. With very pleasant temperatures and soft faceted snow in at and below treeline we had a blast. Couldn't ask for nicer weather in the mountains - just a skiff of wind and sunny warmth. We are forecast to get a bit of snow over the next few days and into the weekend, let's hope it happens. Think today and tomorrow will be the last of the warm days for a bit - big cold front dropping in from Canada... Thanks for a great day in the mountains Kathy!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skylight Area Climbing

Went up to Skylight yesterday (11/27) for a fun introductory half day with Scott and Leah from Cheyenne. they were in Telluride on a short getaway and popped over for some frozen fun of a different nature. Conditions have melted-out a bit up at the skylight with the recent warm weather, but there was still plenty for us to work on.

Overall it was a beautiful morning, and these guys took right to it. General conditions are pretty lean up there, though it looks like everything would go with a cool head and soft hand.

Cheers, CC

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whorehouse Hose Nov 27th

Climbed Whorehouse Hose with Annie Q today. What a GREAT day! The first pitch is in fine shape, but getting wet by noon-ish. The top-out is thin ice over rock or thin ice over the tube, tread lightly! The second pitch is wild right now... rather than the typical cruise up a snow cone and a slight bit of ice, it's thin ice over a pretty voluminous cold flow of water with reasonable ice just on the edges. Watch out for the "wading pool" 2/3 the way up the pitch - you can't see it from the bottom. We tip-toed around on a thin margin of snow that may have come down with the party behind us. Ended up taking the gloves off for rock holds around the pool. Third pitch is wild right now too. It's pretty hollow for the first 40' or so (with another nice deep wading pool at the base) - each swing causing the whole thing to ring deeply. After that it's a mixture of cauliflowers, a bit of egg shells, some nice soft plastic ice and thin ice over the tube and rock. All the fixed anchors are in great shape and the snow between pitches very supportable except for the "trap doors" over the water course. Might get a bit lean with the warm temperatures forecast. Thanks for a wonderful day Annie!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Direct North Face, Nov. 9th

We just returned from a great fall road trip. Started out on ice in South Mineral Creek outside Silverton, then off to Zion and Red Rocks for a last bit of desert sun and rock. Here are photos from Gary Ryan and I climbing the Direct North Face on Nov. 9th. The first bit was pretty straight forward so we soloed up to the WI4 pitches. We opted to split the pitch up so we both could get a little time on the sharp end of the steeper ice. It was a tiny bit wet, but fun climbing! Enjoy the photos...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

San Juan Powder Skiing

Awesome! It is hard to believe it is only November. Fellow guides, Matt, Mark and I headed up into Commodore Basin on the hunt for early season powder skiing. What we found was snow that exceeded our expectations in both quality and quantity.

We cut several beautiful laps through the November fluff exclaiming to each other at the base of each run.   We skied a bit off the shoulder of the alpine bowl that is Commodore Basin but the skiing in the pleasant open glades was probably the best. Tons of warm sun,  cold powder, and phenomenal scenery made for a classic San Juan ski day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Silverton and Ouray Ice Report

1st pitch of Campground Couloir
2nd steep pillar on The Direct North Face (Fat!)
 Despite the latest snow storm Stefan and I had two more excellent days on the early season ice. We climbed Campground Couloir and the Direct North Face in South Mineral Creek. We also got in some drytooling on the new routes on Camp Bird Road.

Stefan topping out the 1st steep pillar on the DNF

All the climbs in South Mineral Creek are in and FAT even the rarely formed Sundance is looking pretty good. Up on Camp Bird Road, the first pitch of Skylight is in. The rest of the climbs up there look in from the road but they are still on the harder side. Have fun and be careful topping out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Men's Health Article

Here is a link to a very entertaining article from Men's Health about ice climbing at the fest and skylight with SJMG.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Silverton Ice Conditions

I got up to Eureka in Silverton to climb with Stefan from New Brunswick today. We did 1st and 2nd gullies. They were both in great shape. 1st gully is characteristically a bit on the thinner side but there is plenty to climb.
1st Gully
Stairway looks pretty heads up but probably doable. Goldrush looks climbable but a bit on the thin side, bring some rock gear. Further up the road Tempered by Fire looks ok, but the three stooges look like they need some time.

Have you ever climbed Burns Gulch? Its further up the road and looks pretty good. There are lots of cool drips and pillars forming with the melting snow.
2nd Gully
All this cloudy weather and snow will be really good for the snow melt fed climbs that are looking like they could get pretty darn good if it keeps snowing. I hope that helps for those of you wondering what it looks like out here. Stefan and I will be out for the next couple of days so check back to find out about South Mineral Creek and/or Camp Bird.
Goldrush you can't see the bottom pitch which is usually the thin one.

Burns Gulch
Did I mention north facing powder skiing?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Camp Bird Road Ice Conditions

Took a spin up the Camp Bird today, there is a bunch of ice on everything, though I wouldn't call any of it IN, yet. All the ice looked wet and fragile, I recommend giving it some more time to set up and fatten. Here are some pics of the main climbs up there.
The Ribbon. Looks like it will be a good year for this once it stays colder.

Birdbrain. The first crux pillar is in, but looks sparse up higher. Try not to be the one who gets on it too early and knocks it down, its hard to live that down!

Racing Stripes

Dumpster Diver

Skylight Pitch 1

Skylight Pitch 2


Chock up Another One

Slippery When Wet

Slip Slidin' Away

Choppo's and Killer Pillar

Poser's Lounge
Soon my friends, very soon...
Cheers, CC