Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Loch Vale Ice Climbing - 10.29.11

Ice season has cometh!  I got up to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park with a few friends for the first ice climbing of the season.  It was a good day with thin ice and mixed climbing.  My friends Mike (his website here), Crystal and Brian met up with me in Estes Park and we headed up to the Glacier Gorge trailhead.  We hiked in on a pretty packed trail and setup below the ridge that has Mixed Feelings, Crystal Meth and Mo' Flo' Than Go.  The weather wan't too bad when sheltered by the ridge, but there were gusts of probably 25 mph and the temperature hovered around freezing all day.  The sun was out most of the time and so hanging out below routes wasn't too bad.  I had a new pair of tools from Edelrid (the Rage) and so I was extremely excited to try them out.  They are actually one of two pairs in North America right now.  Perks of working in the industry!  The only picture I can find, other than my own, is right here!  There will be a full review on these coming very soon.
Loch Vale in very early season conditions
The best ice was on Mo' Flo' Than Go, so since I was the only leader in the group I roped up and got on the route.  It is a fairly short climb, maybe 30 feet, and so I grabbed a few screws and headed up the shallow dihedral of ice.  The new Edelrid Rage ice tools I used are definitely a mixed tool and so on ice they didn't perform as well as my Black Diamond Vipers, but I wanted to give them a go right out of the gate.  They have a different pick for rock and so the penetration in ice isn't nearly as good as something like the Laser pick from BD.  With that being said I could still get good sticks by flicking my wrist at the end of each swing for a good downward penetrating strike.  The vertical ice was fine and actually pretty thick considering the early part of the season.  I had a few stubby Express screws from BD and of course they went in like butter protecting the climb perfectly.  Stemming in the dihedral ramp went well and the route wasn't really a problem.  After the vertical ice you have to traverse left to a clump of trees with slings, but there was a snow field covering the rock slab and so it was a little nerve racking because I couldn't tell what was under the snow for foot or tool placements.  Everything went fine though and with the anchor set we were able to get on two ice climbs and a mixed climb.
Mo' Flo' Than Go

Mike on Mo' Flo'
Crystal on the left side of Mo' Flo'
Brian Williams on ice for the second time!

Me on a short mixed route by Mo' Flo'

The ice season looks like it will be pretty good out here this year.  As we pulled into the parking lot at Glacier Gorge that morning, I noticed a ton of hanging daggers just west of the parking lot.  I had never seen this before and it reminded me that there is an area called Parking Lot Ice right around Glacier Gorge trailhead.  There were daggers everywhere and wet spots lower that looked to be forming into ice.  This rarely comes in, but it is trying to.  I am pretty excited about that.  I can't wait to get out again.
Parking Lot Ice visible from...the Glacier Gorge parking lot!!!

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