Ice Climbing Ouray, CO (5th annual trip)

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This year there were five of us on our annual ice climbing trip to Ouray, Colorado—my son Niels and I (Lars had end of term school work), my friend Kai and his son Jared, and his friend Joey, who climbed with us last year. It was a nice group. We stayed at the same motel as last year as well, the Matterhorn Inn. We left Tuesday afternoon on January 2nd and picked up Niels in Price. He was on his way home from Moab where he and his wife had spent New Year’s with Bekah’s sister and family.

On our way down we stopped in Ridgeway for fusion tacos at the excellent Tacos Del Gnar. We discovered this place last year and it is really good. I especially like the pork belly tacos.

It was nice to discover that Ouray was pretty quiet, not too many people there like in past years. Mid-week, and just past the holidays, was a nice time to go. The next morning we headed to the mountain shop so Joey could rent some boots, then were off to the ice. It was pretty warm for Ouray, in the mid-thirties and snowing. None of us wore our big belay jackets all day. The ice was good, albeit not terribly thick this early in the season. We had a good day, climbing around five pitches each in the New Funtier area.

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Kai on interesting ice.

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Niels and Jared on belay duty.
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Niels.
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We generally keep our liquids in insulated bottle holders like here or in thermoses, to keep it from freezing.
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Me, belaying someone.

On day two we got out earlier as we wanted to be on the road by about noon. There was a big storm brewing and we didn’t want to get stuck in Ouray, though it wouldn’t be a bad place to be stranded. We climbed some nice long lines in the South Park area. One climb was particularly fun, lots of chandeliered ice, bulges, and tricky route finding. It wasn’t that difficult but it felt like a puzzle and you really had to think and find the best route up the ice. That’s one thing I love about ice climbing—the constantly changing ice. It keeps things interesting and fun. We had another great day on the ice, and packed it up around noon and headed out of town.

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Joey on a long route in South Park.
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Niels on the same pretty casual route.
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Me climbing the most interesting and fun route of the two days.
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Joey on the same route.
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Joey at the crux.
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Kai climbing out at the end of day 2.
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Hiking out of the gorge.
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The boys—Joey, Niels, and Jared.
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The old guys—me and Kai.

By the time we reached the edge of town, the storm was in full force. Visibility was pretty bad, the roads were covered with snow, and it was very slow going. It didn’t help that the wiper blades on Kai’s Landcruiser were in poor shape. We had to stop a couple times to clear the ice of the blades so we could see. It took us three hours to get to Grand Junction where we stopped for new wiper blades and a late lunch. During lunch we learned that there was a big accident on I-70 and both lanes were shut down for about three hours. We wandered around a Barnes and Noble for about an hour waiting for the highway to reopen. When it did, conditions were pretty grim. Poor visibility and icy roads. It took a long time to get to Green River, and by the time we got there Kai was pretty stressed from the conditions. So we decided to spend the night there, and we were all glad we did. We didn’t want to try tackling Soldier Summit at night in those conditions.

The next day the roads were mostly clear and we had an uneventful drive home. It was another very fun trip ice climbing in Ouray. I have really fond memories of our trips, especially spending time with my boys. Over the years, three of my four boys have made the trip with me.

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