Monday, February 18, 2008

Ice climbing in Ouray!


Yeah. Laurel talked me into it :)

So here's the story (for those who care to read it....)
So, we’re back! Colorado sure looks different in the snow (the parts that have snow, that is.) We flew into the Springs late Saturday night and stayed with Melanie and Ryan. Laurel went running in Pinon Park Sunday morning with Pike’s Peak in the background. Dan was sick when we left Saturday, so he spent Sunday morning in bed.

After some TheraFlu, we hit the road west for Ouray. Though it snowed in the Springs Sunday morning, the first half of the drive was dry and the evergreen-spotted hills and valleys looked the same as they did in August. However, once we got up to Monarch Pass (11,000 feet) the scenery changed drastically. Everything leading up to the pass and just about everything (150 miles) past the pass were drenched in white, fluffy snow. The draw to snowshoe or ski or even sled was unbelievable. For hours it looked as though we were driving through a postcard.

We stopped in Gunnison for some lunch at “The Bean.” A fun cafĂ© that we visited in August en route to Leadville and Mount Elbert. We arrived in Ouray at about 5:00 and walked around the very cute, old West-type Main Street. Ouray has a population of 600 people and is surrounded by mountains. Apparently, it is very popular in the summer with tourists and the winter it is a haven to ice climbers. The best place in town is a chocolate shop called Mouse’s. We’ve sampled a number of their tasty items! Dinner was at a bakery with Ryan and Melanie and some open-mic performers.


Ice climbing, here we come!

After a quick breakfast we met our guide, Kevin, at the San Juan Mountain Guides office on Main Street. Dan was complaining about how early 7:30 was. We got fit for boots, crampons, and ice axes and headed to the ice park. Ouray Ice Park is a not-for-profit outdoor ice climbing gym. Almost all the routes are bolted for top ropes and the ice is farmed every day. That’s right, ice farmers. There are people who have re-routed part of the river that goes through town and are able to open valves above each climb to create the ice. The ice is farmed almost every afternoon around 4:00 to create optimal conditions.

Kevin showed us the basics of ice climbing and set up a number of climbs. We started on what’s called WI3 (water ice 3, or say a 5.6 in rock climbing terms—beginner stuff). It was cold in the canyon in the morning but when the sun hit us, the temperature easily rose 15-20 degrees and warm us right up. We progressed to WI4s and moved into another part of the South Park region of the park. Laurel got to climb a mixed climb which means ice and rock in one route. The ice axe fits in rock crevices and offers amazing leverage, even with crampons attached to one’s boots.

At the end of the afternoon Kevin put us on a WI4+ and then Laurel successfully, but not cleanly, ascended a WI5 (5.10 equivalent) that had a number of overhanging sections. On the way out, we ran into Malcolm Daly (owner of Trango) before hitting the road. When we got back to the hotel we were brave enough to venture to the outdoor hot tubs for a dip. Crazy Dan ran barefoot back to the room when we were done.

Dinner with Melanie and Ryan was at an Irish Pub and then Mouse’s, of course! On the way back to the Vic we saw two deer on the sidewalk right in town. Then, they actually followed the cross walk signs and crossed the road at the crosswalk! What smart deer! It was an early night for all four of us.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

So, why "Water Ice" ? What other kind of ice do people climb? Ammonia Ice? Mercury Ice? Paper Mache Ice ?

Pictures look great, looks really beautiful out there.