Another alpine outing with John Mercke this week. After climbing for a few days last week at Indian Creek we met a French fellow named Francois and make plans to climb ice in Rocky Mountain National Park. I checked ice conditions with a friend who guides for Colorado Mountain School and got word that West Gully and All Mixed Up were in decent shape, each having been climbed over the weekend with no rock gear – just screws.
So on Wednesday, John, Francois, his friend Elad, and I went up to Black Lake to have a look. All Mixed Up looked very climbable, though a bit thin in the middle. I didn’t snap a photo…sorry! The Black Lake slabs are forming, as shown in one of the photos below. Very thin, though, at the moment.
West Gully was great. We climbed side-by-side in two teams of two. I took the right side, and enjoyed a pitch of mellow WI3 to belay in a niche on the right below a pillar. The pillar was short, maybe 25 feet, steep, and stout with poor protection. I equalized my first two screws together after hitting air on both, then found hollow ice above. Fun climbing: stemming, backstep/kneebar using the rock behind, pulling a steep bulge…if slightly nerve-wracking climbing above such questionable screws. I pulled the moves though and built a belay at the base of the long ice slabs above.
We cruised the slabs on a simul-belay with hero ice and good screws. Elad suffered a mini-epic routefinding on the descent, but we arrived back at Black Lake with almost enough sunlight for the hike back to the car.
All in all an excellent romp in the mountains. I am certainly happy to be back in the alpine game with a comfortable lead head.