Alpinism has a gravity to it. If left unchecked it will pull you all the way in. Sometimes it’s for sharing, sometimes not. Climbing ice demands balance. Two sticks, check your feet. Commit. Find the edge, hold a single crampon point on a dime edge, press. Commit.

I thought a lot about partners this trip. Specifically about how to be a good partner. Good partners pull their weight. If you’re setting an anchor, moving to another spot and your partner offers to re-rig, you move all the packs. A good partner is on time. A good partner does what they say they’re going to do. A good partner offers to belay even if it’s not their turn in the cycle. A good partner knows when to tell a story and when to stay quiet.

When I climb ice everything fades to the background and I’m in a complete flow state. I love the creativity of ice pitches, more than rock it offers limitless options for upward movement. There’s a style to it. It’s where I’m most comfortable.

I love the different textures of ice: frozen neve, wet ice, still forming chandeliers, feeling the bonds between rock and ice through my tools. A delicate placement here or the solid thunk of a well placed pick.

I flew into Denver from Portland on Saturday afternoon, picked up the rental and started the drive to Ouray. I got to Montrose around 10:30pm and the thought of sleeping in the car and suiting up to climb in the dark and cold lost all its appeal and I checked into a motel. I was able to get a good nights sleep, repack my climbing gear, make lunch and boil water for tea for the day.

I texted my partner for the day, a climber I met on Mountain Project to let him know I was about 45 minutes out and en route to the warming hut in the park. Thumbs up, the plan is in motion. When I walked outside I paused slightly when I saw the car was covered in snow and heavy snow was falling I had no idea if the road to Ouray was going to be plowed or not at 6am.

We climbed from 8am until the park closed at 3:30, and then repeated the same the next day for 2 full days. I lost track of how many pitches we climbed. We TR’s some excellent mixed pitches – there’s nothing like the feeling of torquing a pick into a crack or stepping up on a single crampon point on an edge. The last pitch of the last day I climbed up and out with my pack on. I had forgotten what it’s like to climb steep ice with a pack. It takes a bit more effort.

A good trip this week. I’m leaving Ouray tired and satisfied. 2 full work days in Boulder and then back to Portland and my girls.

2 thoughts on “Gravity

    1. It’s such a great place to get a lot of laps in. There are cold shuts (in rock) at the top of the gorge or in some places poured concrete footers with anchor bolts to rig a TR. You can lead or TR anywhere in the park and a 70m rope will cover most climbs. We did both. I wanted to get out there before the Ouray Ice Festival hits – amazing celebration of climbing culture, but not a great time to get a lot of climbing in. That said, I felt great and climbed well – I’m super stoked to get on some of the bigger AI 3+ routes on Hood. LMK if you’re interested!


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