2023-02-18 & 19 Presidents Day Weekend

For most of the winter I’d been doing some training and looking forward to a trip to Cody to climb with Micah. Unfortunately, a number of things conspired to snafu that plan, but we were able to make some awesome climbing happen in Ouray. In fact I got on perhaps two of the most classic lines in the Ouray area.

Bridalveil Falls (WI5+) in Telluride forms at the base of a 90? m cliff with a hydroelectric plant at the top of it. A short ~60 min approach on a 4wd road brings you to the base of the route. In the parking lot we’d been just ahead of another party that luckily Micah knew the leader of. There’s two lines on the route so there was no need to worry about waiting or getting snaked on the route.

Bridalveil Falls on the approach. We took the right side and connected into the dark blue stripe.

I thought the right side looked more interesting than the left. Micah headed up the initial section and quickly was out of sight beyond the steep ice. From the amount of ice coming down and the look of it, the ice was on the drier side. Once the rope came tight to me I headed up and quickly saw some of the features this climb is known for—roofs. Usually ice doesn’t form into more than vertical shapes. This climb, however has them, often frequently. This year there weren’t a ton of overhanging sections. Not seeing how Micah went up I was initially confused as to where to go. I started up and then ended up nearly horizontal and leaning against a feature—a rare position to be in while ice climbing. Eventually I pulled the roofs and started up the vertical, but still complicated ice to get to the belay.

P2 had some mind blowing ice sculptures. Our line brought us up a dark groove in the ice, which from afar might seem like a break in the ice. Up close it was actually a super clear streak of ice probably over 12 inches thick. Inside the ice could be seen water running, a very cool sight. I’ve never seen sections of ice on a climb as clear or as thick as that.

To finish up the awesome climbing was a great rappel. Not quite as long as the rap in Zion, but considerably steeper. After a short 30 ft rap from the top we stopped at a double v-thread anchor and then did a long mostly free hanging rap down to the bottom. Totally awesome to see how steep the route was!

Sunday we got up early and headed up Camp Bird Rd. The crown jewel route in this zone is The Talisman (WI5 M6). It only comes in every 3-5 years and sometimes not much even then. The route starts up a steep section of WI4 then to some ice blobs plastered to the rock as it trends left. From the ledge you move the belay to climber’s right and then start up an overhanging corner, which is all dry-tooling. From the overhanging corner the angle lessens and moves up a groove to another ledge. P3 starts by moving up on rock then directly right to an ice blob. From here drink in the exposure as you swing around right to get the top of the ice dagger. Another 100′ of WI4+ from here brings you to the top.

Approach to the Talsiman (WI5, M6). We had a slog even with the snowshoes.

We headed up the road in the dim dawn light. While there wasn’t supposed to be any weather it was snowing pretty hard as we walked in. After getting to the spot where we left the road we donned our snowshoes. Strange that after moving to Utah 10 years ago I’ve used my snowshoes about twice. Then, in the span of a few weeks I used them twice. The snow was deep and the slope up was steep which was slow going—though not as bad as in Alaska last spring.

The first pitch was thin, detached and had crap protection for about 60 ft. All things which didn’t phase Micah as he carefully negotiated his way up. This climbing didn’t look all that inspiring from the bottom, but when it was my turn it was quite engaging.

The second pitch was my crux. I’m not a big dry-tooler so I had a lot of trouble with this one. About 1/3 of the way up I go spit out and because of the traversing nature I wasn’t able to get back into position on the route. Once I got back on I was able to get the rest of the pitch. I thought the groove near the end of P2 was quite fun and more obvious than the initial section.

At this point we were about 50 m off the deck, the exposure was noticeable since P2 is largely overhanging. The views up towards Camp Bird and the mountains beyond were awesome—not something you see at other spots in the area. P3 was the money pitch in my mind. Micah started across some easier but crappier rock traversing up then down and right. There’s a stretchy stance to stand on an ice blob. From here he gained the free hanging dagger of ice near where it attaches to the rock. This is totally vertical and there’s a chasm of air below. The route has been sublimating and so it is a bit more delicate than previous times this season. When it was my turn turning the corner from the blob to the vertical ice was one of my most memorable moments on ice.

After getting established on the ice. Its straight down 60-70m to the ground from here.

The route does let up from here even though the ice lessens up in angle. The pump from the previous pitches and the cold, dry ice make for some tiring climbing, all while the void grows below you. What a route! I’m so happy that I was able to get on it and to have such a great partner too. Thanks Micah!

If you’re looking to climb some ice around Ouray or other adventures check in with him to see if he’s available, you won’t regret it! Splitter Alpine Adventures

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