Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Ouray Ice Fest

There are a few annual events upon which my year revolves. Most will recognize holidays such as new years and the 4th of july to mark the year, while others prefer to measure time around vacations and events. For 14 years my annual tradition has been the Ouray Ice Festival. This event has become the premier gathering of ice climbers and alpinists from around the world. For years I’v dreamed about some day being good enough to compete in the mixed competition. This year, with some encouragement from others, I decided to give it a shot and apply!

Training in Vail. Photo Ryan Vachon

Venturing into the M11 second pitch of Redbull and Vodka. Photo Ryan Vachon

Unfortunately I was not selected for this years comp. It is a very competitive event, with several climbers flying in from Europe this year to have a chance at this year’s larger purse. The silver lining was that some of my friends, including fellow Alpine Mentors participant Marianne were accepted. Also, Vince Anderson, the route setter for the comp, was psyched to have me along with the other non-competing AM participants forerun the comp route. I found the mixed rock and ice climbing to be a breeze, but discovered I have much to learn about climbing dangling logs.  

After representing AM at the annual fundraiser dinner friday night, we awoke to a cold Saturday to cheer on our friends in the comp, including Marianne.   

Marianne, Steve, and Ines and the fundraiser dinner

Eva House, Colin, Buster, and Steven

The log turned out to the be downfall of most the competitors, only the top two sent the whole route. Marianne did awesome and ended up second in the woman’s field, and third in the speed competition. Over all it was the busiest time I’v ever had at the ice fest, but it was a pretty cool experience representing and talking about Alpine Mentors. Now, I just need to figure out a way to hang a log somewhere and learn to climb it for next year...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Ouray Part two - Ice

Eye the sweet spot, line up the swing, tap once, twice, third time a little harder... Ice climbing appears "easy" and "monotonous" to the die hard rock climber, but what can't be conveyed by watching someone else climb is the refined sense of balance, precision, and subtly required to really climb ice well. After years of practice the the motions become second nature and the ice becomes predictable. Little techniques like cleaning your lower tool from a hanging position, stepping down to rest, and pivoting your heels out can add up and turn what was once a desperate pumpfest into a casual, relaxing pitch.

I find it very rewarding and engaging to coach others on ice, but its also nice to get out and practice my own swing from time to time. In Ouray I had the privilege of getting on some back country classics with solid partners. Jeremiah and I climbed in the ice park as well as Whorehouse hoses in Silverton and Horsetail Falls just above Ouray, the latter taking us 1:45 car to car. Fellow Alpine Mentors padawan Steven and I did some quality climbing on Camp Bird Road, including the route Skylight in thin early season conditions, most likely the first time that route has seen action this year. All the way from North Carolina, Fox Mountain Guides Karsten and Lindsay went to Silverton to climb the classic Whorehouse Hoses. I was psyched to go back at redo this climb that has been in great condition lately.

After a week of climbing I felt solid and confident on ice once again... soon I'll be heading back to reunite with the other padawans, master Jedi Steve, and hopefully the good Dr Doom himself for the annual party the is the Ouray Ice Fest. Although disappointed that I didn't make the cut for the mixed competition this year, Im psyched for my friends who did and will be there to cheer them on!