Today I participated in a mixed climbing (basically rock climbing with ice climbing gear) training session. A few days ago when I realized my original plans for this weekend wouldn’t work out well, I contacted San Juan Mountain Guides to see if I could do a day of mixed climbing. They recommended Friday or Saturday and as I had a commitment for Thursday night (which I ended up cancelling anyway) I took Saturday. I shared the day with two other climbers, both from New Mexico.
It snowed the day before in this part of Colorado and the roads were a bit slick in places, but most significantly was the more than a foot of snow at the top and bottom of the cliffs and ice routes. In the photos you can see drifts of snow blowing off the tops and filling the bottom.
At the San Juan office in the Backstreet Bistro shop, I ran into Chad Peele, who I climbed with at the Ice Fest, and we chatted for a second. Our guide for the day was Eitan, who is a friend of Mark Allen’s (from my Liberty Ridge disaster) and we caught up for a few minutes on Mark’s shoulder injury. I had hung out with Mark and Eitan at the ice fest earlier in the year.
We headed out the Scottish Gullies to “mix it up”. I took a few extra pictures of the routes for Ryan to compare from the last time we climbed at the end of December. The weather started out at -4, and warmed up to around 33 in the sun by afternoon, so it wasn’t a bad day.
We got on Little Sausage (the short M4 we had worked a little on with Heidi wirtz at the ice fest) and Eitan gave us some tutoring on the basics the way he does it. This route has been a thorn in my side for a while now, having worked the far left crack system with Ryan, then working toward the middle with Heidi, and now with Eitan to the right side. None of us sent it, and we went over to Circling Vultures, the M7 route to the left of Tic Tac (pictures from which I had posted before).
On my turn I had given the camera to Eitan, and I’m glad I did. The bulging block was giving us all trouble, and I had worked out a stem to a left leaning hook in the ice, when suddenly I popped off, just as Eitan took the picture of my flying sideways through the air. It felt wild being mildly inverted from my harness and I managed to kick myself upright at the end of the pendulum, and keep my tools in hand
After a good rest we went back to Little Sausage. Scot (one of the clients) managed to get to the top, and I managed to get about 8′ from the top and totally pumped out. I rested some but wasn’t getting my energy back at all. Scot sent it again, this time much faster and I decided to give it one more go.
I’m glad I did. I finally sent it, and in much better form than any of my previous attempts. I guess I learned something today about mixed climbing. We hiked out (I didn’t use the fixed rope either in or out for training purposes) and at the cars we noticed that everyone had fliers. Guess you can’t escape civilization even here.
Afterward I talked to Eitan about the North Cascades where he’ll be guiding this summer, about Baker and Shuksan. Both dream locations for me. I got late lunch at the Bistro – a Tuna Melt on croissant. Great way to end a hard day climbing.