Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Long Drive, pt 1


I've never taken much of a winter trip before.  This year I wanted to experience a slice of the cold season in a different place.  James, my dearest friend and climbing buddy from grad school, invited me along on an ice climbing trip to Ouray, Co.  I thought it would be a great idea to drive out there by myself, so I took two weeks off work to make it worth the hours on the road.

Organized Chaos
I spent all day organizing and packing the car.  Morrison ran away twice to romp around the neighborhood because I was too busy stressing about socks.  I had everything I could possibly need for ice climbing, skiing lifts, skiing backcountry, attempting to run at high elevations, camping, couch surfing and drinking beers somewhere way too hip for me.
Sunrise outside of Pendleton, Oregon
My last work shift was torture, but soon enough I was headed to bed with the alarm set for 4am.  I awoke in the dark and was promptly headed east.  Interstate 84 took me along the Columbia River, Pendleton, the Wallowas, Baker City, soon I was on the long flat stretch of the Snake River Plane.  Miles rolled by, now everything I saw, I was seeing for the first time.  Soon the volcanic moonscape gave way to mountains.  I witnessed the first sunset of my trip in bumper to bumper traffic in Salt Lake City... it made me a little less impatient.  From SLC it was all windy two-lane highway through Price on my way to I-70.  I made a last minute decision to press on to Moab so I could wake up somewhere familiar and beautiful.
First views of Utah
Sunrise in Moab
I slept in my car at a trail head, thinking I'd run in the morning before continuing on.  When I awoke it was 7 degrees.  I did not run.  I ate muffins at the local coffee shop while thawing out my toes.  It was only a few more hours to Ouray from here.  I drove south of the La Sals, past cliffs and valleys that no self-respecting geologist could ignore.  It was noon when I arrived in the little town of Ouray, nestled deep in a caldera, snow-dusted peaks rose up around all sides.  I settled in at the local brew pub and let an imperial stout undo the damage from 20 hours in the car.

James and his band of Houston geologists made it in to town in the afternoon.  We checked in to the hotel and I promptly spent 3 hours in the hot tub.  The rest of the weekend went about the same way.  Start the day in the canyon with screaming barfies, fall asleep in the hot tub at the end of the day.  The weather was unbeatable, the ice was good and the company was better.

Ice sculptures
I found it incredibly rewarding to delve into this familiar, but unique type of climbing.  The overall objective is the same, but the way you move and how you think on route has a different feel to it.  We racked up plenty of pitches in a few days, and I even broke out the Alpine Short Shorts for a sunny pitch.

First day at South Park
James on a mixed pitch

Once the weekend was over, the Hustonians had to return to their big kid jobs in their busy city.  I loaded the car back up, spent the morning at a lovely hot spring and began driving north to the Roaring Fork Valley.....

To be continued.

Creative ways to stay warm