February 15, 2015
Warm sunny weather drew my good friend Rob Raker and me back to the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado to try and knock off some of the classic climbs that have eluded me over the years. The first, Ames Ice Hose, is infamous among climbers, and located just off the road to Ophir, outside of Telluride. I’ve been skunked several times by bad conditions and competing parties of climbers, so we left at 5:00 am to make sure we were the first ones there. Arriving to an empty parking lot, we breathed a sigh of relief at having the area to ourselves for the time being. Minutes later, two climbers screamed into the parking lot and slammed on the brakes. They leaped out of their car and grabbed their packs, shouting “race you to the base!” I think my heart stopped until they said, “Nah just kidding, ” and asked about some beta on other nearby routes. In places like Ames Ice Hose, it is all about who is the first to the climb; but generally, it is a courtesy to let whoever parks first climb first.
Erik and Rob Raker gearing up for the climb. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
Ames Ice Hose from across the valley. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my first attempt on Ames Ice Hose almost 10 years ago was brittle and aborted due to the constant shrapnel of falling ice. Joined by local guide, Pat Ormond, this time around was a world of difference and some of the best conditions I’ve experienced. Climbers call it “fat” ice when it is thick and not too cold. The ice is “plastic,” and each swing of your tool sticks firmly into the face. All in all, it was a successful outing on one of the best climbs in Colorado.
Rob and Erik simul-climbing on Ames Ice Hose. Rob climbs slightly above Erik, close enough to provide route "beta" (information) but to the side enough to hopefully not knock ice down on top of him. Photo Credit: Skyler Williams
The Ribbon has been a nemesis and on my tick list for years. Known for the spindrift avalanches that pour down from the bowl and snow gully above, conditions have to be perfect to make it safe and enjoyable. It had been a few days since the last snow, so we thought we would be in the clear; but once again, my 4th attempt on The Ribbon was a grin-and-bear-it style climb. We made it to the top, but in a shower of raining ice and snow. Lindsay Fixmer, a local guide, joined us and led all 3 pitches; but even as the leader, she had to keep her head low. After we got down, Rob remarked that the spindrift was so intense that he often had to close his eyes and feel for where to swing . . . we all were climbing blind!
The second pitch of the Ribbon. Photo Credit Skyler Williams
Erik approaching the top. Photo Credit: Rob Raker