Thursday, February 17, 2011

Road Trip – Spanish Fork Canyon and Ouray, CO

By Chris Thomas
It got a little too warm for ice climbing in Utah, so Jesse Mease and I hit the road and headed for Ouray, Colorado. The goal was to tick off some of the naturally forming longer lines outside of the ice park.
With such warm weather forecasted, we thought we'd split up the six hour drive and climb a desert tower or two on the way. About half way to Moab, however, in Spanish Fork Canyon, we rounded a corner and stumbled upon this beauty:
Rock climbing plans canceled! We pulled over into the shoulder of Highway 6 and ran up to the base as fast as we could. We had to give it a shot...

Unfortunately, it was a long, long ways from touching down, and the rock was far too chossy for rock climbing to get to the ice. But we found a sketchy looking passageway that connected some ledge systems on the left. Poor rock and worse anchors made for a pretty hair raising endeavor...
No go! The ice was super chandeliered and delaminated, we bailed. This is one to keep an eye on - to my knowledge it hasn't been climbed. With a little more time and cold weather the ice may re-bond to the rock.

Exploring the cave below the free-hanger:
The Talisman, Ouray, Colorado
After the Spanish Fork debacle, we arrived in Ouray with just enough light to allow a ski up Camp Bird road to check conditions. Although in awfully lean conditions, the Talisman looked climbable and we made plans for an early start the next morning.
Sunrise on Camp Bird Road
The first pitch wasn't in, there was basically no ice until the very top. But we climbed a rock pitch to the right of the standard first pitch that proved to be a harsh wake up call (and incredibly fun, in a sick sort of way)! Snow covered rock and not much gear to be found, save for some icy cam placements and bad pitons.

Jesse following the incredible second pitch
Third pitch: STEEP ice to a good rest, followed by unrelenting thuggery to the top
All in all, one of the best multi-pitch mixed routes I've ever done. There's lots more to do around Ouray, I can't wait to go back!
Chris Thomas

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