Friday, June 1, 2012


I juts came back from a 27 day trip to the Alaska range where I had the opportunity to climb and guide at Denali base camp area. Most of the routes that I did where awesome alpine ice like: Mini moon flower, Bacon and eggs, and the first 13 pitches of the North Buttress of MT Hunter. Also I had the chance to do some alpine rock on the NW ridge of Franciss. I finish my great trip trying a new route on the central face of the of the Mini moon flower.  We got pretty good ways up and weather and conditions turns us around. Maybe next year.

This photo shows the North buttress of MT Hunter with the mini moon flower and beacon and eggs in the back ground. Highly recommend check this place out.  

High on the mini moon flower about pitch 12. Fun alpine ice.

The crux pitch of the mini just thing and steep great climbing.!!!!!!!!

Summit photo with a good friend from slovenia at the summit of the mini.

Ouray it is a great training ground for this type of adventures. Come this winter and get tune up for 2013 Alaska ice season.

All best,  Andres Marin 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mount Sneffels 14,158'

Mount Sneffels Southeast Face

As I clicked into my skis at Lavender Col on Mount Sneffels it was hard to believe that days earlier I finished up rock guiding in Las Vegas where the high was forecast to be 99 degrees. though I have spent loads of time staring up at Sneffels throughout various adventures in the San Juans I had never climbed this crown jewel, our local 14er.

The benefits of an alpine start

I bet you can't guess why this peak is named Teakettle
I managed to drive my small SUV up Camp Bird Road past the ice climbs (now waterfalls), past the Camp Bird and Revenue Mines, past the turn off for the well known Imogene Pass to the trail head for Yankee boy basin. In a few weeks, with a 4x4 vehicle more substantial than my underpowered Korean SUV, motorists will be able to drive a few more miles to the proper trailhead. Either way this made for a pleasant camp as I ate the pizza I bought in town and went to bed early for the next mornings 4am alpine start.

From the summit!
After coffee and oatmeal in the darkness of the morning, I shouldered my pack with skis and ski boots and made my way up the trail. Eventually I switched from sneakers to ski boots then skinned and cramponed my way to Lavender Col, up the summit couloir and finally to the summit of mount Sneffels.

Looking south towards the many venues we use for SJMG programs!
I could see for miles in every direction. I could see south to the Wamanuche where SJMG runs alpine courses, I could the ridgeway resevior. It was an incredible view of the CO landscape!

Monday, April 30, 2012

More Than Ice Climbing

While SJMG is known as the local ice experts there comes a time every year when the ice melts and it is time to rock climb. I recently got to spend five days climbing in Red Rock outside Las Vegas with Elena. Together we climbed tons of awesome pitches of Nevada's finest sandstone. 

Elena, originally a guest for ice climbing wanted to hone her rock skills as well. It was really fun getting to cover a lots of terrain and explore a number of Red Rock's canyons before returning to town for dinner. Though we are known for our ice prowess, really at SJMG we are adventure generalists. Do you have an adventure in mind? Let's make it happen!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Black Canyon: The Scenic Cruise

Often referred to as the best rock climb in Colorado the Scenic Cruise is stacked with incredible pitches of climbing. It is amazing how many hand cracks are on this 2000' route! Because the route is one of the most famous in the Black Canyon, it receives considerable traffic (which by standards outside the Black is not much) which means the that much of the loose rock has been cleaned off the route.

Still, with a pumpy 5.10d crux and many in your face pitches of 5.9 and 5.10, the route is an in-your-face undertaking for many climbers. The difficulty of retreating from any of the Scenic Cruise's 13 pitches (or any other route in the Black for that matter) gives the route a seriousness that keeps the crowds away.

Still open to guided access, The Black Canyon of the Gunnison offers incredible rock climbing adventures beyond the Scenic Cruise for intermediate and advanced climbers. Hiring a guide is a great way to demystify and defang this otherwise serious and sometimes intimidating venue.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Only 2 hours from our office in Ouray, CO, The Black Canyon is home to some of the most adventurous, not to mention spectacular, rock climbing in the lower 48. The Black is one of those places that it is easy to fall in love with. The giant canyon drops, in some places up to 2,000 feet, down to the Gunnison River. The canyon is all but invisible until you round a corner to hike down into it and suddenly the spectacular scenery unfolds below you.

Though guided access was recently threatened in the Black Canyon, thanks to CO legislators, companies with permits like SJMG can guide the incredible multi pitch rock routes in the canyon. With many long 5.8, 5.9, and 5.10 rock climbs the Black Canyon is a great place for intermediate and advanced climbers to experience a wild multi pitch outing. Because it is a canyon, the climbs in the Black top out at or near the campground (and beer cooler) tucked away in the junipers.

Yesterday I climbed a pleasant 5.9 in the canyon named, Casually Off Route. The climb is not very sustained at 5.9, only a couple hard moves, and makes for a great introduction to climbing in this unique and unforgettable venue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

San Juan Mountian Guides is Moving!

It has been a busy spring with big changes on the way here at San Juan Mountain Guides. First and foremost we are moving! I spent yesterday helping Nate and Andrew assemble shelves, move gear, and create a vision for our new office.

While I will miss breakfast at Backstreet Bistro, it is exciting to have our own storefront office right on Main Street. it will be a a great head quarters to run our ice climbing programs out of in the winter and our rock climbing, alpine climbing, and back packing in the summer. 

Our new office is in a great part of town. If you need any last minute energy gels or carabiners in the morning, Bill and the gang at Ouray Mountain sports are right across the street. After a long day of climbing right next to the mountain shop is O'Brien's Ouray's very own Irish pub and the place to be for live music on the week ends.

It is going to be a terrific Summer here in Ouray, and we can't wait to see you you here! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spring Rock Climbing in Ouray

Ouray is, of course, world famous for its ice climbing. When spring time comes and you put the ice tools away you shouldn't stop thinking of Ouray.

Have you ever sat in the hot springs looking up at the cliffs above? There are hundreds of rock climbs sprinkled throughout Ouray from single pitch sport climbs to long adventurous multi-pitch routes.

Imagine a couple days of rock climbing followed by an alpine ascent into the rugged Sneffels Range or the incredible Grenadiers.

In the spring, the airport ramps up its flight schedules making logistics of getting here even simpler. At the same time mining roads that wind up into the mountains are cleared. Ouray's already incredible access only gets better! The only question is when do you want to come climb?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

San Juan Spring Skiing

Let me share two secrets about the Colorado's San Juans with you. Secret number 1: The ice is great in the late fall. Secret number 2: Spring is the time to ski! The spring melt freeze changes the shapes of the snow crystals. It turns them into rounds that skiers call "corn". This corn makes for creamy, smooth, and fast skiing. The consistency of the snow means that you can ski a bit more aggressively, like you might on a groomed trail, than winter's variable conditions allow.

Not only do the great conditions make spring skiing a joy, the warm temps make for pleasant, warm, touring. Touring in the sunshine, it is hard to not to go to the summit of the many 12k and 13k peaks in the area. From these summits, skiers can enjoy wide open alpine bowl skiing or skinny couloir skiing, take your pick.

Come check it out!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sneffels Range, Reconnoiter

There is an imposing group of mountains that sit on the horizon as you drive from Ouray through Ridgway to Telluride. This group of mountains are the most rugged peaks in the Rocky Mountain sub range, the San Juans. This is the Sneffles range. Named for Mount Sneffels a 14k peak.

While I have often glimpsed these peaks on my way back form getting groceries in Montrose, I hade never visited them until recently. Phillipe and I decided to ski up into the Sneffles range for a ski mountaineering adventure.

We skied close to ten miles to right below the summit of Reconnoiter peak. The peak is capped by a 80 foot rock pinnacle. Since we had no rock climbing gear and we had our ski boots on our feet, we could not find a weakness that would lead to the summit.

 The prominent couloir to the west (left) of the peak  made for an exciting ski descent. Though the upper section was full of breakable wind crust, the bottom was pure San Juan ski bliss. The Sneffels Range is home to some of Colorado's best technical mountaineering. I cannot wait for my next chance to visit this unique range.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Still Kickin' (and Swingin')

So it has been a while since we were last able to post simply because we have been so busy taking people from all over the country ice climbing all over the San Juans. From the Ice Park, to Camp Bird Road, to Telluride, to Silverton. 

It is such a joy sharing ice climbing with climbers of all levels. Whether it is teaching people to plant their front points solidly into the ice for the first time, or taking them up one of the areas famous hard-man (or woman) climbs, we love getting people out on the ice.

Even though some people are thinking spring, as I look out my window at the latest snow storm I know that the ice climbing and backcountry skiing will stay good for a while to come. If you haven't had the chance to come climb or ski with us yet this year, give us a call, we would love to take you out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Toledo, OH to Ouray, CO

It seems like a long way to go to climb frozen waterfalls, but judging by the grins on these guys faces, it was well worth it. I got to spend 2 days climbing with Brian and Walt from Toledo.  Both of them had done some ice climbing before and Brian recently climbed Everest and completed his seventh summit. Both wanted to improve their climbing skills and came to Ouray to do it.

We spent the first day in the Ice Park working on their technique in the Scottish Gullies and South Park and the School Room. Both improved their foot work enormously and climbed some steep lines! The second day we enjoyed the backcountry gem Dexter Creek Slabs. At the base we sampled the delicious smoked cheddar cheese and sausage that Walt shared with the team.

Thanks for a great day gentlemen! I hope to see you back for other classic like Whorehouse Hoses, Stairway, or 2nd Gulley.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Making Ice Climbing Safer

Here at San Juan Mountain Guides we are all about ice climbing in the winter. However, part of what makes us different is our emphasis on education. I like to take part of my days out with folks to explain how the safety systems we use in ice climbing work. For those interested, we talk about placing your own protection, building anchors and leading ice climbs.

The internet puts a great deal of information about ice climbing at our finger tips, if you know where to look. Understanding the forces involved and the dynamics of the medium and equipment helps me climb safer. Together with a day or two of instruction this collection of links and articles will surely help you climb safer, enjoy!