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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ice Climbing - Nymph Lake

A view of Hallett Peak standing on Nymph Lake
Ice climbing is something special.  Basically ice climbing comes down to 75% temperature regulation and 25% skill.  You get to spend time in an environment most people spend their lives trying to avoid.  As a climber you look forward to challenging yourself with the hiking, climbing and the weather.  If the weather is good, you get a day much like summer sport or traditional climbing, a comfortable, but long day of climbing in the cold.  If the weather turns nasty, it can be one of the most miserable experiences, but ultimately rewarding, in the world.  I headed up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) the weekend of February 6th with my friends Mike and Crystal Gasell as well as my buddy Mike Quinones.  We had a day that defined the former...clear skies, wind swept snowy peaks, sunshine and ice!!!

Mike Q and I left from Fort Collins late in the morning to meet Mike and Crystal up in Estes Park.  Mike G had to drop his skis off in Boulder to get worked on, so we all got together about eleven in the morning.  We all piled in Mike and Crystal's Jeep and headed up to the Bear Lake parking area.  Nymph Lake is just a 15-20 minute hike up above Bear Lake and has some great views of Hallett Peak.  With just a short jaunt we were at the base of the cliff.  The snow was deep up to the climbs and we weren't sure whether or not the ice would be any good, snow was covering everything, so I slogged up the last little hill to check it out.  There was ice under the snow and with a little maintenance we would have a couple clean lines to workout on.  I slid back down the trail I had just blazed as if I were in an ice luge from the Winter Olympics.  Check out the video of Mike Q in the ice Luge.  We all had fun with that!

More about the trip after the break including photos!!!

After the shenanigans we grabbed our gear and got ready to climb.  I had my eye on a pretty easy slab route on the left side of the wall.  It was covered with a good bit of snow, but one time up would allow me to clean it off for everyone else.  We set up camp underneath it next to a large tree and stomped out a good viewing platform with an angle for photos.  The route was easy and probably went at WI 2-, but it was a fun warm up.  We then set our eyes on the thin curtain to the right.  A seven foot curtain that barely formed at the bottom was the route and it was good to practice delicate technique and focus on foot and tool placements.  It was Mike Q's first time ice climbing so we were all trying to help with pointers and helpful hints.  He had a great time and I imagine we'll get out again before the end of the season.  We all had a great time and because Mike G had to get back to Boulder to pick up his skis we got in a few hours of ice climbing and hit the trail back to the car.

The weather went in and out from blue skies to dark clouds, but it turned out to be a great day with some good climbing.  The Nymph Lake ice is pretty short overall, but it offers a short hike in, easy setup and fun climbing for a moderate workout.  There is good potential for some mixed climbing with some caves and thin ice sections as well.  Overall I really liked it and will enjoy going back.

The group standing on a frozen Nymph Lake with Hallet Peak behind
Mike G starting the first route
Crystal taking on the second route
Mike G gettin' sticks on route 2
Mike Q chopping ice for the first time!
Mike G finishing up route 2

The backside of Longs Peak is in there somewhere


Your blog is getting me psyched to top-rope WI2+!!!

This post makes me feel better about a shake I made on ice climbing... out of 100% all I have the potential for is 75%... and getting all the temperature regulation points will be a task in itself that's for sure!

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