Monday, February 18, 2013

Climbing Cascade Creek Falls, CO

We left Ouray early that Monday morning. Overnight, a weak system had dropped a few inches of snow, just enough to put a lil' doubt in one's mind about the drive back home. We talked it over breakfast, "yeah we should probably start driving early so we're not caught in the passes when the sun is off the roads and they refreeze." After wandering main street for a few and chatting with the locals we set out. We made great time climbing the wet, icy roads in high gears through each pass on the way south from Ouray. We checked them off one by one: Red Mountain, then Silverton, then Molas, then Coal Bank. Before we knew it we were coasting down towards the large hairpin turn that crosses the high point of Cascade Creek, near Purgatory Ski resort. Jay had expressed his insatiable hunger multiple times on the drive, but when I asked him if we should check out the ice here, there was no hesitation. "Yeah man."

Last couple shots of Ouray.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Climbing Horsetail Falls near Ouray, CO

Horsetail Falls, WI4, 500ft, 4 pitches.
Day three of our ice climbing foray found us woofing down calories for breakfast at our favorite Backstreet Bistro locale. We gulped coffee and debated how to seize the day. We had tossed around the idea of doing a backcountry, multi-pitch (read: really lonnng) climb since we first organized the trip. Two days in the park had bought us quite the nice portion of confidence, with an extra helping of stoke.

"Man, we should just go for it. We'll feel it out. If it's not happening, it's not happening and we'll bail.

Now the only question was where? On the trip in we had scoped out Bear Creak Falls and Horsetail Falls from Highway 550. Cascade Falls, overlooking the small town of Ouray, seemed to be "somewhat" in.from afar, but it was sitting in the sun all day and we were already approaching ten in the morning. Not the best conditions to climb ice. Somehow, the discussion steered back to Horsetail Falls. We pulled up the beta on it and scoured it's offerings... 500+ vertical feet, typically split in to four pitches. The crux is the first pitch, rated at WI4-5, depending on how difficult a line you choose. Alright, alright, we could probably muster that, we convinced ourselves. We were both comfortable on the WI5 terrain and we had both led WI4 in the park the days prior. Jay graciously volunteered me to lead the first pitch -- can't pass that up, I guess. However, the selling point on Horsetail Falls: minimal minimal minimal approach. You can see it from the highway for crying out loud! Sold. We downed the rest of our breakfast, hopped into the car, and headed for the hills.

Prepping for the climb & workin' on game faces. Photo credit: Jay

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Day Two in the Ouray Ice Park

After a long night's rest in the most primo of climber bunk house digs, Jay and I grabbed a filling breakfast at the Backstreet Bistro to start the day out right. We grabbed our coffee fuel for the day and scrambled to the ice park to get our spot. Even for a Saturday, it wasn't too crowded. We walked the lower bridge and found a couple spots in the immediate area known as the Scottish Gullies.

Scottish Gullies

Jay and I made quick work of setting a top-rope anchor on a spot we both thought would be ripe for warmups. We checked the topo-map, shrugging off the WI5 ratings in the vicinity while I rigged my rappel setup. "Eh, we need to challenge ourselves and get the most from this trip." Jay obliged.

Peering into the gorge...

Friday, February 15, 2013

All-Nighter Road Trip to Ouray to Climb Ice

Words to come... for now only photos...

I'm officially ready for the carpool lanes with my puffy jacket mannequin.