Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hidden Falls - 12.18.10

Hidden Falls is a great ice flow in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The trail follows the St. Vrain river in the shadow of Mount Meeker.  This farthest south entrance to the park is popular with snowshoeing and cross country skiing, however the ice flow is only a couple miles from the trail head and offers a low altitude alternative for ice climbing compared to Loch Vale and other high alpine ice climbing.  This is a perfect place for someone's first ice climbing experience.

Short secondary ice flow
Ryann needed to get out on some ice and I thought this would be the perfect spot for her very first time.  I decided it would be a great place to teach her the basics and get her comfortable with ice climbing.  She would have the chance to practice some good technique on the short secondary fall and then run some laps on the main fall.  I would help her with pointers on technique, temperature management and efficient climbing styles.
We hung a top rope over the small fall and I gave Ryann some pointers for efficient climbing.  I also let her know that a huge part of ice climbing doesn't have to do with climbing at all.  It has to do with temperature management and proper clothing for the elements.  We worked on making sure she had a few things that are essential when ice climbing anywhere.
  1. Windproof Beanie
  2. Multiple pairs of gloves
  3. Softshell pants and jacket (windproof)
  4. Warm boots and socks
  5. Fleece/wool layer and down/synthetic layer
  6. Long underwear (wool or fleece)
Ryann, ready to climb
These essential clothing pieces keep you comfortable and allow you to manage your body temperature.  This is super important because it makes you want to climb and still be out in the elements.  In other words, you don't focus on how cold it is or how windy it is.  I had a few tips for Ryann.
1. A super important tip is to ice climb in a thin layer glove, maybe just a mixed climbing glove.  This gives you dexterity and comfort.  2. After you come off a climb it is important to have your warmer pair of gloves in your jacket "cooking" waiting to be put on.  This allows you to always have a warm pair of gloves and wear whatever gloves are needed.  3. Have a beanie that is windproof that will fit under you helmet.  Little bulkiness and the ability to block the wind are both important.  4.  Don't over grip your ice tools.  Over gripping will tire out your hands and forearms.  It will also make you colder overall because your body will be focusing on getting blood to your hands and as that blood rushes in and out of your arms the rest of your body will suffer.  5. Shake out.  You have to shake your hands out as much as possible.  6. You only need 1/4 inch of ice purchase for tools and crampons to be effective.  The more you chop, the more tired you will get.  These tips were really valuable for Ryann and she did a great job implementing all of them to her advantage.
Ryann had a great time for her first day of ice climbing and we are looking forward to more.  We will actually be up in Estes for New Year's ice climbing for a couple days.  We are also attending the Ouray Ice Festival in January with a few friends from the Front Range.  It should be a blast.
Ryann on the main flow

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