My Alarm abruptly woke me from peaceful dreams and reluctantly got out of bed and put my warm fleece pants on. It was still dark out and the thermometer read -15, yikes! I cant believe Im going ice climbing on one of the coldest days of the year, what was I thinking. It was too late to bail, I was committed to meet my partner Hayden in 30 minutes. I filled a thermos with boiling hot tea made from fresh cut ginger, lemon, honey, and cayenne, dressed as warm as possible, and embarked into the frosty cold dawn. My car took about 10 minutes to start but finally did. We pulled into the Shoshone parking lot on the Colorado River and Hayden informs me that we only have to break one law and that is jumping the fence for the hydroelectric dam. I joked that I didn’t really like breaking laws (except for the last time we hung out on new years and spun late night doughnuts throughout town). He also told me that the last time he climbed here his friend fell through the ice while crossing the Colorado River. Alright! We were in for a good old adventure. We climbed the fence, crossed the ice covered river, and walked down the railroad tracks till we got to an “Explosives, do not touch” sign where we turned and started our 1000 vert climb up a side gully of the Glenwood Canyon. We quickly warmed up as we trudged over snowy covered scree and straight up the gully towards our frozen waterfall. I got into a good rhythm and started my usual meditative thinking; wondering what I was doing here, and then realizing that I was simply on an adventure to build character, strength, perseverance, camaraderie, and experience. I was living and training, growing, exploring; and it was awesome. It felt so good to get the blood flowing and the mind thinking. After an hour of going straight up we arrived at the waterfall, it was beautiful and daunting. I had never climbed ice quit like this before, especially not on the coldest day of the year.
We geared up, drank hot tea, flaked out the ropes, and discussed our plan and route. Hayden led the first pitch, kicking off dinner plates of ice and slowly but surely climbing the vertical wall of frozen water. I followed him up and am not going to lie, was puckered, even on top rope. My hands froze numb, and I again wondered why I was putting my self through this. I took deep breaths, shook out my hands and continued up. I finally reached Hayden at the belay and my hands started to burn and tingle. Hayden laughed and screamed, “you got the screaming barflies.” Im not sure if it made me feel better or worse to know that this was standard for ice climbers. There was about 5 minutes of excruciating screaming barfly pain before my hands started to sweat in my wet mittens. After a short rest and re-rack, I started leading out for the second pitch. My hands were warm and I was in the zone. I steadily made my way up, screwing in ice screws for protection when I got scared, and eventually topping out on a snow bench where I scrambled up mixed rock, ice, and snow to a small belay ledge. I made an anchor and put Hayden on belay. The rope was frozen stiff and belaying took almost as much strength as climbing. Hayden crested into view yelling, ”fuck! I broke my pick, I cant believe I broke my other pick on the same pitch as last time.” Hayden broke his other ice tool on the very same pitch the last time. Non the less he arrived at the belay smiling and joking. We had an empowering view looking down on the Glenwood Canyon and Colorado River. I have been wanting to explore these steep canyon walls ever since I was a kid staring up at them while kayaking Shoshone and Grizzly.
Hayden borrowed my ice tool, re racked, and started up the third and hardest pitch. He was bellowing animal sounds as giant chunks of ice broke loose and plunged toward Colorado River 1500 ft below. He took a giant ice chunk to the chest and let out a war cry, but maintained his composure and held on. I climbed the pitch after him and also took a nice size ice chunk to the chin. It was a full on battle with the frozen water fall. My feet cut loose once but I hung on. I kept reminding myself that its only as scary as you make. Keep breathing and stay calm. My arms pumped with lactic acid and I reached the top with minimal strength remaining. We rappelled down in three smooth pitches and a feeling of warmth and relief washed over me once we were on the ground. Hot tea has only tasted that good a few times. As the daylight was limited, we packed up and started our descent down the steep, rocky gully toward the ice cold river. We made fast and efficient progress, glissading on our butts in spots, and boot skiing in others. The sound of traffic on I-70 interrupted our spiritual journey and as we tight roped the rail road lines my mind wandered to a hot shower and lots of food. On an outing like this, my mind went through the full spectrum of thoughts and emotions, but in the end I was so stoked on our adventure. I became stronger, wiser, more experienced, and better friends with Hayden. I look forward to many more adventures with him. On the ride home we schemed about speed flying off 14ers, paragliding in Costa Rica, flying, skiing and climbing in Alaska, and about our X games speedfly gedoesic dome whomp out bbq dance party that we are planing.
A hot bowl of veggie soup and dank kale, spinach, arugula, carrot, avocado, and nut salad will surely nourish and strengthen my body and mind after an epic adventure.
Tomorrow we are meeting early to speed fly off the back side of Highlands. Time to rest!