On a hut trip in January, I got to take Black Crows' Trios Freebird ski…
With the winter season in full swing in Colorado, we have several winter activities to choose from on any given day. Skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing are just a few of the options we have.
Recently, two Chaletans, Lawrence Housley and Shane Leva, chose the option of ice climbing and took a trip to Vail where they spent the day in the Rigid Designator Amphitheater. Lawrence had mentioned before leaving that Vail offers some of the most challenging mixed and ice climbing in Colorado – all while being an easily accessible, single pitch venue. The Amphitheater alone has more than 30 mixed and ice routes to choose from. Half the battle when we plan a trip there is deciding which routes you want to climb. I had so many questions. Luckily, I had a chance to sit down and catch up with the guys and talk about their day on the ice.
AR: So you guys ended up at the Rigid Designator Amphitheater. I know all the routes there are single pitch, so you would have had the opportunity to do several. Which routes did you choose?
SL: We had quite a number of routes to pick from. By the end, we climbed Seventh Tentacle (WI5 M7), Dolly Madison (M6+), The Mauling (M*), and Staircase (WI3+)
AR: Which climb was your favorite?
SL: My favorite climb was the Seventh Tentacle. The route was super fun with an overhanging mixed start to a beautiful WI5 column that extends up to another huge roof.
LH: My favorite climb that day was definitely The Mauling (M8). I really enjoy pushing myself on mixed climbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love ice climbing, but hanging upside with my tools precariously set on a small edge is something I thrive on.
AR: What tools did you end up taking? Any new gear to test out?
LH: We used Cassin X Dream and Petzl Nomic ice tools, and Black Diamond Cyborg crampons. We also used Black Diamond Express ice screws. With crank knobs that provide uninterrupted 360 Degree motion, it’s easily the fastest ice screw for me to place.
SL: We also tested out the Madrock Angler quickdraw, which has a small shelf on the rope end biner that makes it less likely to unclip the rope. It’s a cool piece of gear, but it is trying to fill a gap that should be filled with PROPER Technique.
AR: How did you guys manage to stay warm and dry?
SL: I used the Alpha Direct Jacket from Rab. The Alpha Direct uses unlined Polartec Alpha insulation that breathes really well. It insulates when wet and dries quicker than anything else I have ever used. As a side note, I have switched most of my insulating layers to Alpha. It is coupled with a Pertex Microlight face fabric that repels all but the heaviest wet snow. It is not windproof but very close. The combination makes it perfect for multiple winter sports as an outer layer, or even a mid layer on those super cold days.
LH: As always, I depend on layers for warmth. I wore my Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip-Neck under a fleece pullover. If the temps drop while climbing, I throw on my Arc’teryx Atom LT jacket. If I am still cold, while belaying, I have my giant Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket I can hide in.
AR: I know both of you have a passion for ice. How long have you guys been pursuing the sport? And, on a personal level, what does ice climbing mean to you?
SL: I have been climbing ice and mixed for about 5 years. Ice climbing, to me, is one of the best ways to refocus and center myself. It will strip all the day-to-day crap away and leave you with nothing but your instincts and emotions in a beautiful place. It leaves you to test yourself with nature to a level I have not found with anything else, except hard backcountry skiing.
LH: I’ve been climbing for 10 years. Ice climbing is my meditation. It’s hard to think about anything else besides how well the tool stick is, or if that screw will hold. It keeps you living only in the moment.
If you would like to hear more about Lawrence and Shane’s trip to Vail, or if you have any questions about climbing in general, come by the shop. We would love to chat it up.