Closer then Ouray, no crowds, long routes, cool little town.
After hearing murmurs about the new ice park in Lake City, we took advantage of
the long w/end and headed down there to see for ourselves. We knew we were
driving through central Colorado when we came across a herd of cattle being
rustled down the middle of the highway! It was pretty funny, they were all
following a tractor with a giant bail of hay on the back while a couple cowboys
and herding dogs kept them in line!
Pulling into Lake City early afternoon on Saturday after the 4.5hr drive, we
checked in at the Alpine Moose and realized we were the only guests (red rum,
RED RUM, RED RUMMMMM!). We stopped in town to fill out the required waiver and
drove the whole three blocks south to the ice. Noticing a huge wall of ice and
only one other car, we wondered if we were in the right spot! Four guys from
Crusty Butt were there and laughed that we spoiled their lonely climbing all
day. Jaws hanging down at the long routes, we picked one out and I did the short
hike around and up above the ice to the anchors. Their setup is quite similar to
Ouray… tapping into the city water tank along with PVC and shower heads
provides all the ice needed. There are some trees way back, but several spots
where anchors/bolts are drilled into the rock. Bring long slings! Even with
about 30ft of slings and a 60M rope, we relied on the dynamic properties of the
rope to get us both tied in. Quite comical to watch, I’m sure.
Blue skies, warm sun, and wonderful vertical ice…. We almost felt guilty for
having too much fun. The routes are LONG and just about completely vertical. Far
from beat-out and plenty of room to belay. There were even a few plastic chairs
to chill out on!
Sunday morning we checked out the ice up at the old mining townsite of Henson, 3
miles up Engineer Pass. Sure looks different then running up there in the dark
during the San Juan Solstice last June! The early morning blue skies covered up
with clouds and lead to snow flurries. We found our way back to the ice park,
having the entire place to ourselves. Several more arm-burning laps and we
headed back to the hotel for lunch. Bruno, at the Alpine Moose, cooked up the
finest beef burgundy I’ve ever tasted. The chocolate covered strawberries for
dessert were a nice treat and we felt spoiled and out of place. He told us all
about the herd of deer that are his friends and the 3-legged coyote that we saw
hanging around outside.
Sunday afternoon found us back trying out yet another route, the virgin ice and
slight overhang near the top had me puckered up a bit… but it ended up not
being a problem.
Monday morning…. Hanging out at the Mocca Moose chatting with the locals about
the ice and upcoming “Ice Competition” the w/end of March 1st.
Great folks that were real friendly and more then happy to show us their
favorite climbs on a map and how to get to them. So much for the tropical
weather… it was minus 5. But a few more laps got us warmed up before heading
out of town and back to the Front Range.
Check this place out, what a gem! They are talking with BLM and working on a
plan to expand the ice even more. And their March 1st Ice Competition
Soooo, recap…. Great ice, no crowds, Mocca Moose coffee shop, Alpine Moose
restaurant/hotel = one mighty fine ice climbing weekend!