Twas a tradition of time’s past. Our Denali crew would gather in Colorado for good ice and fellowship. This year our numbers were diminished due to illness and work obligations but it was still Neil ,JDavis, Neils son, James and I.
Fortunately we didn’t require their services. But the ride from Boulder to Ouray was a little more than dicey. What should have taken 5 hours ended up taking us almost nine. Snow was blowing sideways and mountain passes were closed. I was driving a two wheel drive Mitsubishi. It was solid ice all the way up and down these mountain passes. I will not be driving across the state again in winter time. However I did come across one of the most elusive outdoor sightings of all time on this journey. I finally saw a bobcat in the wild. It crossed in front of the car as we drove through the hills. All my years traipsing through the Appalachians hearing them and seeing their signs. Only to see one run across the road and almost get nailed by my car. Truly a blessing.
Once finally in snowy Ouray, it was time to get at the task at hand. We follow our fearless later John Davis down into the canyon.
We established anchors and rappel down into our first ice climb. Since we were last there they developed a nice new anchor system. Very well marked with the snow. We don’t know what the routes are rated though because this was a new area that just opened up.
We were mostly climbing water ice 3 with the occasional four. It’s not been a great year for Colorado in general. You may have heard about the wildfires that went through Boulder right before I got there. Only about a third of the ice park was open. And all this was top rope. Very little lead climbing sections were even open. It’s been very warm until we got there.
After exhausting ourselves we would have a nice meal somewhere in town and retire early. Having only had a few days on the ice, we needed to maximize them. Neil was down from Alaska and his son James drove up from Durango. It was great to have James join us on the ice. He’s a natural, just like his father.
Good old JD, Dean Davis. Always so much fun to hang out with him and Neil. We missed Lee who was unable to come due to work and Dan who is suffering from chemotherapy complications. Dan’s had a rough time with a lung melanoma.
This is Neil socially distancing his son James who was exposed to a covid positive person prior to the trip. This meant that poor James had to stay in a separate hotel eat by himself and generally distance himself from us except when outside and he always wore a mask. Very thoughtful young man.
it was sometimes five and six degrees in the morning so when we headed back after a couple of days the roads were still solid ice coming out of Ouray. Fortunately the weather was good and allowed us but 4 to 5 hours over into Frisco/ Dillon.
I said goodbye to Neil and James whom I presumed departed for their hut to hut ski trip. And I said hello to Keystone. The first day of skiing was pretty good. The second not so much. And I will add that lift tickets are now about $150 a day.
One thing Colorado does right is they address this virus appropriately. Proof of vaccination is required before entering lodges and certain accommodations. I stayed at a hostel called the Pad my second night. It was a delightful experience, very clean with hot tub. For $50 a night I stayed in the heart of ski country. Compare that to your average $200 night prices elsewhere.
As a matter of fact the skiing was so icy my second day I quit about 1:30. I proceeded back to Boulder and spent the night with John and his wife Zara. She is a gourmet cook and sommelier. She prepared two wonderful meals for us at the beginning and end of our excursion. They are such gracious hosts. I didn’t find out till I returned home that James was unable to join his father on the hut trip due to coming down with the actual covid.
I’ve always valued the time that I spend with my Denali buddies. We all met on that great mountain in 2007. I’m prepared to go to another Mountain that I visited prior to that. in February I will be leading a group downto Cotopaxi in Ecuador. We still have a few spots available if you are interested contact me I will leave our itinerary and details at this link.
We have a very nice crew making the trip down to Ecuador. I’m looking forward to showing them some high altitude beginner mountaineering. if you’re reading this blog and you’re interested in letting me help you develop an adventure give me a call. Would you like to go learn how to ice climb in you Ray with a one-on-one guide? I’m a dirtbag climber and work for cheap. could probably be talked into flying out there if you get hotels and and car.
All in all a fantastic experience in Colorado. Many thanks to the Davis family and Neil and James. Now for some music.
Let us not forget that he was one of the greatest musicians of all time and this guitar lick proves it.