President’s Day Weekend 2015 in Ouray

Carly fighting through the spindrift on the Ribbon (WI4).
Carly fighting through the spindrift on the Ribbon (WI4).

February 14-16, 2015

Over the long weekend Carly and I headed to Ouray to get her first (and probably last) bit of ice climbing in for this year.  There’s a good chance it’ll be my last as well given the temperatures in Salt Lake City.  We were joined in Ouray by Eric, Matt, KP, Aaron, and Tina.

Weather was similarly warm in Ouray but at least the elevation and slightly lower temps have been keeping the ice around.  In the sun it was nearly t-shirt weather, but in the shade things were good for climbing.

Carly and I did the Ribbon up Camp Bird Rd on Saturday.  The route was hacked to pieces and it was hard to protect at times because so many people had made screw holes.  The climb isn’t melting out nor is it building.  Some of the old screw holes were nearly double their original diameter because the ice is sublimating.  The route was in fat shape and while the first pitch was thin, it was fatter than normal.  Carly forgot her sunglasses at the car seeing as we left with headlamps on so we’d get on the route first.  This turned out to be bummer since the route has neverending spindrift from high above.  She was barely able to see at times because of all the ice and snow bits in her face.  She was a trooper though to suffer through the difficult bits, even on Valentine’s Day.

Sunday started off poorly.  We had planned to meet Aaron for an early drive out to Silverton and Eureka.  Our objective was Stairway to Heaven.  Unfortunately Carly’s car needed a jump.  This isn’t a new thing as it seems that any light left on, including interior ones, will drain the battery.  We jumped the car with help from Matt.  After getting to Silverton we stopped at a gas station so we could test if the battery had taken a charge.  Everything started up again, even after 10 minutes of not running.  Even so we were a little apprehensive of driving out to the boondocks of Eureka and climbing all day to come back to a car that couldn’t start.  Carly took one for the team and decided to give up climbing for the day so Aaron and I could climb.  She’d drop us off and pick us up at an arranged time later.  There’s no cell service so we’d have to go old school.

Snow levels in Eureka/Silverton were amazingly low compared to the last time I was here.
Snow levels in Eureka/Silverton were amazingly low compared to the last time I was here.


Aaron and I had good, but less than productive day.  We were able to get on Stairway but the conditions weren’t great.  The climb is very baked out and difficult to protect in spots.  We also had a party of three in front of us which slow us down.  We decided to rap off after the second pitch so we could try and get a little more climbing in on better ice.  That didn’t pan out as we had to go back up to the P2 belay after I forgot my tools up there.  In the end we got plenty of mountain exercise done, but only two pitches of ice–though P1 of Stairway was good.

Monday Carly and I hoped to get on Horsetail Falls (WI4) before having to head home.  Unfortunately a party beat us by about 30 minutes and we saw them just getting to the base of the climb when we showed up.  Instead we parked at Engineer Pass Rd and walked up towards Gravity’s Rainbow to explore.  We weren’t expecting to see much climbable ice on this South facing cliff, but we were able to find some lower angle stuff on Over the Rainbow to have some fun on.  We also spied some routes that certainly have been climbed but weren’t in the Roberts guidebook or on  Our day was cut a little short because of a blizzard that rolled in and made for nearly white out conditions.  Despite not getting to the “top” of anything we had a great day exploring and doing a little faux first ascenting as we never looked at the guidebook or other beta before climbing.