Colorado Ice Climbing Trip: January 2011

This trip began and ended with a 13 hour drive. Colorado is a very close neighboring state, but more than half the drive was in Texas! We planned this trip with two full days set aside just for driving so we started off at 5 a.m. with a groggy group of 8. Some of us were strangers, but others were friends. Cramming us all in a van for a day of driving didn’t make it easy to get to know one another, but by the time we got to Colorado we all had at least one thing in common: we were tired and hungry for a real meal. When we reached Alamosa, CO, we stopped at Alamosa State College to size up our gear, meet our guides, Mick and Marcus, and sit down for some nice Italian cuisine. We reached our cabin in South Fork around 10 p.m. and, after claiming our beds, all of us sat down for a refreshing game of Apples to Apples. This is a great way to get to know people since you have to pay attention to how each person judges a pairing of words or reacts to certain subjects. As it turns out, we were a mixed group with different disciplines and backgrounds, but everyone loved to have a laugh.
Our first day of climbing began early at 8:30 a.m. We followed Mick and Marc to our site which was only a five minute drive and a five minute hike away. The 30 foot frozen water drips had been climbed the day before by Mick’s student staff as part of their winter training but the only evidence we could see at first were the red drops of blood in the snow. This made us pay close attention to instruction on ice tool technique; you are supposed to look away right before the ax actually hits the ice to avoid any chunks flying into your face. Accidents happen though, so undaunted, we completed our practice and instruction phase and began our first ascent on the beautiful blue ice. The scenery was gorgeous and a few of us became serious photographers when we were not belaying or climbing. We climbed until the sun sent us home with accomplishment and excitement for the next day. However, the first day wouldn’t end until we cooked up a nice dinner complete with a birthday cookie cake for Sal’s 21st! After a wonderful home cooked meal some of us watched a movie while others made use of the hot tub on the back porch where we took part in a northern tradition of jumping out to make snow angels and then jumping back in again. That was another experience to check off my bucket list which made for two in one day for me!
The second day was at a different site about an hour drive from our cabin, so we had to get started a little earlier. This site also required some extra equipment just to reach it… snow shoes! After ten minutes hiking through the snow with these crazy contraptions on our boots we approached a canyon with a frozen waterfall. The scene was majestic and breathtaking as we were all lowered down the waterfall into the canyon. The wind was so brutal, but it didn’t matter because we just wanted to climb on this amazing frozen feature over and over again. There were sections where you could see water still falling behind the ice, but the ice was so thick it didn’t matter how hard we swung our ice tools into it. When we had all climbed to our hearts content we hiked out of the canyon on slopes so steep I’m still not sure how we did it.
As we gave back our gear and loaded up the van for the long trip back many of our thoughts were already on Tuesday morning and the first day of school, but the snow and ice kept us company until we left the mountains. Just like that, an amazing adventure ended and we continued on to the start of a new adventure; spring semester.
Monti, Trip Leader.

About Albert Mitugo

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