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.

Above photo credits: Jay
 I pulled off the highway into an icy road. I managed to get the car stuck in a spot of snow, but with Jay's superhuman strength we repositioned the car and aimed for the last parallel parking spot among an array of outdoor enthusiasts' vehicles. We made quick work of changing into our climbing digs, threw the harnesses and gear into the bags, and scarfed down a few calories to put the stomach cramps at bay. We huffed out along the plowed road until we could see the small gorge come into view. After scanning the south wall a nice gleaming streak of white came into focus. "There it is!" It turned out we were on the wrong side of the canyon. We retreated back to the highway and circled the hairpin turn to the south, boots clunking along the pavement. A left turn into the plowed road leading to the nearby water treatment plant quickly led us to the opposite end of the gorge. We stumbled upon two awesome chicks who gave us the low-down in between their mixed-route sessions. Before long they bailed and left us in solitude, making for quite the surreal setting with only the sounds of the loud waterfall pouring into the basin below.

The view across the gorge with the south wall ice flow in view.

We set the top-rope / rappel anchor off of a conveniently-placed tree and rappelled into the gorge. Some of the ice that covered the pond below was already melted with a few holes plunged through, likely from a few missteps from previous climbers. It only added to the thrill of standing below the climbs -- I hope I don't fall through.

We each took turns running laps on top rope. We started with a fairly mild WI4- straight up the center with a somewhat dihedral angle to stem through.

Jay making quick work of the steep stuff.

Next I ventured out over the hanging chandelier! I made careful hooks into the small voids between the neighbored tubes of ice, hoping for the structure to hold. It was taxing. By the time I finally made it a few moves up the pillar, the effect of four solid days of ice climbing finally set in and I grew weary -- legs shaking and arms beyond pumped out. I yelled for a "take" and sat back on the line. Whelp, this was it for me.

I traversed over to the more picked-out section and finished to the top. I built the belay system from up top and yelled down to Jay to come on up. It was just about all I had left.
By the time Jay made those last few swings we both felt the satisfying quench of knowing our thirst for climbing the frozen stuff was finally met... for the time being.
We packed up our belongings and made the short trek back to the car. We threw our street clothes back on and pulled the car back onto US-550. A short drive back to Durango was but a prequel to the long stretch of road that lay before us. We arrived back in Tempe some time between 1 and 2am We celebrated with some fancy Belgian beers, regaling our stories from the weekend with my wife as we waited for the morning hours to drift until Jay's red-eye flight back to his homestead. Great weekend.

Pen-stock spanning upper Cascade Creek.


Anonymous said...

Dude, this write-up is the tits! One of the most bitchin' weekends for me climbing in some time, thanks for not including my old man grumpiness in the text! ;) -Jay P

The Mountaineer Skeptic said...

Ah dag! I totally forgot to add the grumpy ol' man voice to the writeup! Great weekend, indeed... 'Twas the tits.