Friday, February 5, 2010

Skiing and Climbing Colorado

For the past two weeks I've managed to change out of my climbing and skiing clothes only twice. In the background now, I can hear the hum of the washing machine tumbling those stinky, overworked garments. The full moon is filling Silverton wall-to-wall with blue light. And
outside my window is the singular focus of my skiing attention this season.

Panoramic view of Red Mountain Pass ski terrain

Mt. Kendall is just over 13,000 feet, and my house is at 9,280. Every day when I am doing dishes or making coffee I dream of the sweeping arcs I will one day make down Kendall's "Naked Lady" slide path. Two weeks ago, before mother nature deposited over five feet of new snow on us, I awoke one morning to a sight; both disturbing and exciting....

Mt. Kendall from Danny's Kitchen. The "Naked Lady" slide path is the one directly facing the viewer, on the left side of the photo

Carved like the rhythm of a metronome, was a singular, perfect track down the center of the "Naked Lady." Someone had stolen my line out from under me as if they had snuck into my dreams! I paced about the kitchen wondering when, and with whom, I would ride the waves of the Naked Lady from the summit to valley floor. I could see the plumes of snow coming off my partners skis as they sliced through endless white.

Matt Wade in the entrance to the Granddaddy Couloir in Commodore Basin, Red Mountain Pass

Sheldon Kerr ripping up the Grandad Couloir

Matt Wade ripping the Grandad Couloir

And then one snowed, and snowed, and snowed. The avalanche report called for "Extreme hazard, at all elevations and aspects." Some said it rivaled the biggest storm they'd seen in a decade in Silverton. What is meant for me and my Naked Lady...she'd have to wait until things settled out and calmed down.

Danny leading "Santa Claus Pillar" WI5

But living in the heart of Colorado's San Juans means that we have options. This is, in fact, the center of the US ice climbing universe. Ouray is only 40 minutes away and is arguably the best
venue in the country, if not the world, to improve upon one's ice climbing, and mixed climbing abilities. There is more ice than I can shake a stick at, and too many good climbing partners to let a day pass by unused for some adventure.

Gary Falk skiing up to Santa Claus Pillar

Hence why its been difficult to find any time to change out of my climbing clothes. Whats the point? I'm going to wear them tomorrow anyway! I've stumbled upon that magical efficiency in which all actions lead to the desired end, in this case, climbing.

Gary Falk leading up pitch 1 of Whorehouse Hoses in Silverton WI4/5

So while my clothes are nearing the spin cycle, I imagine the beautiful snakes of blue ice that are still begging for me to climb them. My mind gravitates towards that perfect ski mountaineering line I see every time I drive by Sultan Mountain, "The Elevator Shaft." It, like the Naked Lady, and all the climbs I dream of doing this winter, occupy my mind like a disease, and remind me how lucky I am to be living in the best place on Earth.

Looking up the second pitch of "Skylight" WI5, in the Camp Bird Mine Road in Ouray

If you're not too busy with your own adventures, come visit for some of mine. For now, the view out my kitchen window taunts me like a mean older sister. It knows exactly how to push my buttons. But I know when the time will be right to strike....

--Danny Uhlmann, Instructor and Guide

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