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.