Ice Climbing Without Suffering

Ice climbing is only for the hardest of the hard-persons; those willing to suffer frozen toes, midnight starts, subzero temperatures, triple-digit wind speeds, long waits while every other ice climber in the Front Range hacks and chops his way up a well-loved pillar, and all manner of other degradations just for a few minutes of shattering ice and pumped-out limbs. At least, that has been my experience the last couple seasons. How pleased I am to be wrong!

The right side is more "interesting"; maybe a touch harder but less sustained.

Fabio, Scott, Julien, and I made plans to climb at Timberline Falls in RMNP. The weather was mild and, with no recent snow, we made quick time up the trail from Glacier Gorge to the Loch. Timberline is the outlet from Lake of Glass and Sky Pond, where the stream supposedly falls over 200′ into the forest below. On the approach, we didn’t see much. Then there was a short, bit of ice, perhaps 20′ in all. Oh well. We’ve come all this way, we might as well throw up one of our 70 meter ropes (drastic overkill for something this modest) and run some laps.

Fabio leads the left (main) flow.

To our surprise, there was a lot more ice than we’d expected and it was a lot bigger from up close. Fabio tackled the left line, a straight sheet of untouched ice which turned out to be 100′ high and in the WI3 range. Meanwhile, Julien, despite not having been on ice in many years, grabbed the lead of the more convoluted right side; a route comprised of a 30′ bulge followed by some low-angle ice and finally a 10′ bulgy headwall.

With scenery like this, it's hard to have a bad day!

The day was partly cloudy, relatively warm, and with only the slightest of breezes. We each ran three or four laps of the routes, enjoying ourselves immensely. Where was everyone? Isn’t is supposed to hurt more? Why was this ice completely untouched? It felt criminal to swing my tool at a meter square sheet of deep, tourquoise ice so clear you could see the underlying rock and snow several feet down.

I finally get my hero shot, courtesy of Scott Borger

To round out the day, Julien and I ascended to clean the anchors, then wandered a hundred yards up to Lake of Glass to take in the awesome panorama at the head of the Sky Pond cirque: Taylor Peak flanked by the Cathedral Spires and Powell Peak.

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