Colorado San Juans

Some Alaskans go to Hawaii for mid-winter sunshine. The problem is Hawaii stinks for skiing and ice climbing. Instead Cathy and I snowbird to southwest Colorado for sunshine. 

We started our trip with a few days at the family-style ski resort Monarch. Here's Cathy with our nephew Sean (age 9) and bro in law Chad. See our Ouray post from last year. 

Then we skied at Telluride with our friend Eric Larson. Cathy and I hang with Eric each summer in Chamonix. Eric has been on Telluride ski patrol for 20 years. This is the patrol shack where he is based. It's called Pluto and sits at 12,570 feet. 

Eric gave us the grand tour of Telluride. With Eric we hiked to his powder stashes. Luckily Eric didn't bust us for ducking the fences. 

Gold Hill 9 Chute is far above the lifts, but with our VIP status it took just a few minutes to access.   

Apres ski at the patrol-owned bar. One dollar beers! While hydrating I was thinking about applying for a job. 

The next day Eric, Cathy and I climbed the ultra-classic Ames Ice Hose. The route is normally WI 5, but it was in chubby conditions, bringing the grade down to a stout WI 4. In this photo is Ouray guide Dawn Glanc and her partner on the first pitch. Earlier in the morning they climbed Bridalveil, the other Telluride classic. 

Cathy nearing Eric at the first belay.

As usual, Eric was chomping at the bit to lead, so I kicked back and climbed with my wiffy. Fun!

Eric leading the rope-stretcher third pitch of the Ames Ice Hose. Then we rapped down and went for pulled pork and two dollar Shlitz in Telluride. 

Cathy and I stayed in Ouray for the week. A couple lazy mornings we climbed at the Ice Park. It was unusually quiet and we climbed some long steep routes.  

Water for the Ice Park leaks from an old aqueduct along the canyon rim.  

Cathy toping out from 110 feet of steep ice. 

Lower to top belay1.jpg

This is the lower-in mode at the Ouray Ice Park. Top roping at the Ice Park requires unique ropework. Belaying from the bottom is often too dangerous because of ice fall. Instead, most climbers lower down and climb back up, belayed from the top. 

Lower to top belay2.jpg

Top-belay in guide mode after switching from lower-in mode. The transition is made without taking the climber off belay.  

In Silverton, we climbed Stairway to Heaven, a seven-pitch WI4. A route we climbed together 15 years earlier. This year it felt grunty with two vertical sections, or maybe it's being 15 years older. 

We also climbed the Ouray classic The Skylight, a glittering crystal chimney rated WI 5 in the book, but picked out to fun WI 4.