Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fur and a Tail

My man and I have hiked the last couple days around town. The first evening we headed into William's Canyon. It's not open to the public, but there were only two of us. We're not really "the public" are we? It's amazing what that canyon looks like now, after all the flooding down there this summer. I shouldn't really say we hiked it. Rather, we walked to it from my house and then we boulder hopped to the point where the trail breaks from the old Cave of the Winds exit road.

Yesterday evening after work, I thought I'd show my man the old Ute trail, a relatively obscure one that seems very remote and untraveled. We only hiked up about 40 minutes, then turned around. On our way back down, we decided to explore a different exit option. It's always a risk to do so, but we were so close to town we figured we could get back to the car no matter where we came out.

The trail, at first, started out wide, and looked like a vehicle had even driven that part of it before. It wasn't long, though, before it really was a trail, following the ridge of a hill. Not something to be done in snowy conditions, because it would be hard to recover from a slip off either side. Not something to be done in summer, because it was extremely rocky - perfect for snakes.

We kept the original trail to our right, and when the one we were on veered to the left, we decided to head downhill to the right to see if we could get down the hill and back onto the "real" trail. The hillside was a bit steep, and sometimes we had to hold onto the abundant spiky small trees to help us down. We were not far from some really steep cliffs to our left, so we headed right to find a gully that emptied onto a not-so-steep part of the hill down to the trail. We found one. It was full of more of those spiky trees, but we picked our way through them, held onto rocks on either side of us, and lowered ourselves down over the steeper areas. Really, this wasn't dangerous or anything, just a little more effort than some descents. "An adventure," my man called it.

So here we were, surrounded by craggy rocks, almost to the hill that we could take to the trail at the bottom. I went first. I grabbed some rocks and jumped to the ground, right in front of small cave. At the same time, I thought I heard a man's voice. I looked down toward the trail, but no one was there. I didn't think anything else of it at the time. Maybe, for some reason, I scraped something or what have you, and it made a sound like something someone would say. I started walking down the hill, and turned back after a few steps to wait for my man.

As he started coming down over the hole, he said, "Babe, you keep going. I'm going to find a different way down." "What?" I said. "Why?" "Just keep walking, ok?" When I questioned him again, he said, "There's something in that hole. I'm going to find a different way down. You just get to the trail." He headed back up the rocks, and I headed down, my heart beating a bit faster than normal.

That was some of the scariest moments I can remember, in that regard. I didn't know what he'd seen, I was out in the open, and he was getting farther away from me as we moved in opposite directions. I didn't know if something was going to start hunting me. Perfect timing, as it was dusk by this time.

Well, obviously all's well. He found another way down and we met up on the trail - with whatever it was staying in its hole. When he reached me I asked what he'd seen. "I don't know what it was," he said. "All I saw was fur and a tail." And the male sound I thought I'd heard? Probably the animal growling at me when I jumped down right in front of it. We're figuring it was a coyote, but there's no way we're going back to find out.

So, lessons learned this time out? No more rocky crags on a hillside that no human has come down in probably years. And the adventure my man mentioned earlier on our descent? "Maybe a little less adventure," he commented once we were back at the car. Yes. Perhaps.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ouray 2014

 On Friday my man and I took off for Ouray, Colorado, home of one of the ice climbing meccas of the U.S. Seriously. People are jealous of what is practically in our backyard. Even if it's a backyard that takes 5 hours to get to.

We met up with a crazy bunch of people there, many of whom I'd climbed with last year. We had two condos rented for the fourteen of us. Above is the view from the condos.

It was Ariel's first time on ice. First time climbing outdoors at all. He followed in my footsteps in that regard, as my first time climbing outdoors was also on ice in Ouray, three years ago.

Did I mention Ouray also has some amazing vistas?

He had, however, rappelled before, when he worked for the fire department years ago. So at least I was ok with him rapping into our first climbs, which were in the New Funtier area of the ice park. 

We had amazing weather. If I'd had a t-shirt on, I'd've worn it. Most of the time I just climbed in my long underwear top. It was so warm, there was a lot of dripping water. I've been there when it was freezing cold, and it's not fun. So while the heat is nice, when you go to climb ice, you kind of want it to stay there. 

Some of our group: Nathan, Tommy, Chad, Me, Norm, Ariel, and Erik. 
 Not pictured: John, Jonathan, Sarah, Dan, Jason, Valerie, Stephanie.

It was Stephanie's first time, too. 

 Jonathan broke his neck a few months ago, and was up climbing.

Sarah was given a 15% chance of living two months ago, and was also up climbing.

 And while it's nowhere near that serious, I did something to my back the morning we started out, and could barely walk all weekend. But I didn't go all that way to not climb. So I loosened my back as much as possible with the short walk in and then ignored the pain all day.

As I type, I've got some pain meds working their magic, and I'm sure I'll be fine in a few days.

Ice tools. 

Erik rapping in. 

Ariel giving someone a ride. 

 Nathan's got some interesting belay positions going on...

 Ariel was a natural. He climbed like he'd done it many times before. On our drive there he'd said, "I don't know why people drive all this way to climb on ice. I didn't even know you could drive this long and still be in Colorado!" I think he gets it now (although whether he comes to love climbing like I do remains to be seen).

My first year climbing, three years ago, I got hit on the shoulder with a chunk of ice that the guy I was climbing with knocked loose. This is how big I imagine it to be. I never did actually see it, but it rendered my arm useless for quite a while.

Below, some of our group are climbing up out of an area called South Park. 

 Time to chill.

Lesson Learned: Drive "all that way" to climb. We're some lucky people!