Record warm temperatures on the East Coast meant that I either needed to travel far north or far west to get on any quality ice this season. Ouray Colorado, one of the premier ice climbing destinations in the world, was the perfect choice. The town features a gorge with farmed ice called the Ouray Ice Park, and the San Juan mountains hold hundreds of backcountry routes. Jeff was also in the area guiding, so it was the perfect time and place for an adventure!
We spent our first day climbing in the ice park, which is basically the Gunks Uberfall but made of ice. A thousand vertical feet of climbing later I was pretty worn out, but feeling pretty confident considering I hadn't swung a tool in almost a year!
The next day we headed up Camp Bird road and got on the classic climb Skylight, where I had my first ice climbing fall! Luckily I was only following, so we made it to the top of the route no problem. We also two other climbs in the area, including a pumpy overhanging M6.
The next day (after another brewery night) we woke up before dawn to climb Gravity's Rainbow, a 3 pitch WI5 route outside of town that happened to be in perfect condition. The route is south facing and melts out fast, so our goal was to climb and be off before the sun hit. We hiked an hour to the base in the dark, and climbed three rope stretching pitches to the top.
After wrapping up the climb, we spent the afternoon driving to Silverton along the Million Dollar Highway and checking conditions on a few climbs, and sampling another local brewery.
For our final day, we headed back into the ice park to work some hard mixed lines. After failing miserably on an M9 that was used for the competition the week before, I managed to climb a WI3 M6 clean on TR, and had a blast working a few other lines.
After another fun night in town with a few other climbers and guides, it was time to head home. Until next time, Colorado!