Ice Climbing

My friend Jason Deugan and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday to get in a bit of ice climbing. This was my first time climbing ice, and I wanted to try out my new ice tools and crampons. We hiked up to Loch Vale and found an easy toprope to climb, called Mo’ Flo’ Than Go. I climbed an easy ice/snow gully to the left of the climb to set up the toprope, then Jason and I took turns climbing the WI3 route. I had a great time, both on the hike in and climbing. We did learn several things yesterday that I’ll have to keep in mind in the future.

Rule 1: Always bring tools for your gear. We needed to adjust Jason’s crampons and didn’t have a screwdriver, so we had to improvise a screwdriver using the points of his crampons. I also bashed the freshly-sharpened pick of my ice tool on some rock and seriously dulled it. If I had a flat file I would have been able to sharpen it.
Rule 2: Bring along a thermos to keep your hot drinks hot. A Nalgene with an insulating cover doesn’t keep liquids warm when it’s 10 degrees out. We brought a stove, but it was quicker to just start hiking out and warm up that way. A thermos of coffee would have really hit the spot.
Rule 3: Remember clear-lens eyewear. I had to borrow Jason’s yellow-lens sunglasses when I was climbing, you’ll get a lot of ice in your face when setting your tools in the ice. Eye protection is always wise. Keep your helmet down over your eyebrows, too.

Both Jason and I had a great time. We hiked about 5 miles overall on a packed snow trail, postholed up 200′ to the climbs from the packed trail, and glissaded down around 100′ from the climb. On the way out we met some other climbers heading back to the trailhead who gave us some good beta on other ice areas and also showed us a shortcut back to the car. I think I’m hooked.