This line catches your eyes as you read Jack Roberts’ Colorado Ice, Vol. 1 as it describes it as “the longest climb in Colorado and possibly in the lower 48.” Not to be disrespectful, but what about Camp Bird’s 1100 foot Bird Brain Boulevard & 1100 foot The Mainline, Engineer Pass’ 1300 foot Kennedy’s Gulch and 1300 foot Centerfold, Lake City’s 1300 foot, Senor Presidente, Eureka’s 1600 foot Direct North Face & 1100 ft Campground Couloir/Snowblind/Cataract Creek & 1200 foot Stairway to Heaven (going to the top of the ice), the 800m Sherman Climb, Grand Teton’s 1400 foot Black Ice Couloir, Yosemite’s Widow’s Tears? Ah, we digress. A fly over might get your juices going as it looks quite impressive from the air, more so than up close. In essence, it has 200+ feet of steep climbing with a bunch of low angle ice above and below it. Nonetheless, the climb is adventurous, provides a good aerobic day (if warm temps), and has a fairly wild feeling for its proximity to civilization.
Due to the sun exposure on its approach, it is best to pick a cold and/or cloudy day. Due to the snow accumulation along the way, flotation devices (skis or snowshoes) are mandatory. There are big cats that inhabit the area. The season is probably to late March. April is really too late and the ice gets sun exposure and makes it quite confidence-deflating. If the day is sunny and/or warm, it can take 4 hours+ to reverse the approach with thigh to waist deep wallowing.
P1-2. If you go down to the river level, you will find a pitch or two of WI2 ice and snow to the base of the steep section, wonderfully shown on p. 108 of Colorado Ice, Vol. 1. You may wallow up snow to an ideal belay spot. We were informed that this lower bit might not be worth the effort.
P3. You may have choices here. In the above photo, this steep bit appears to be a curtain with short bulges & ramps to start. In late season conditions, you may be give 3 options (left, right, & center). The left side appeared to be wet late in the season. Center was reportedly a steep pillar WI5+ or 6-, imaginary pro, 60 feet. The right side was by far the most reasonable line, WI3+ for 160 feet with a 30 feet WI4 bit at the end. You can certainly split this into 2 pitches.
P4,5,6. Low angle ice WI 1-2. The above mentioned photo does accurately depict their steepness. Each pitch is about 190 feet. Gets you to your first rappel point. Note, any ice screws or V-threads left may melt out.
Note, since there is no WI4 to 6- option for rating, the rating is left as above.
Drive US 50 to mile marker 124, about a half hour West of Gunnison. There is a pullout on the North side of the road which lies just East of some power lines. This lies <1 mi East of Alpine Plateau Rd & the Arrowhead Lodge turnoff. Note, keep a low profile, since access/property boundaries are not completely clear.
I'm told this is pretty challenging to find (sorry):
Here, you drop down a loose, steep hillside littered with cans, bottles, and carcasses perhaps 300 vertical feet. Cross a snowbridge (ideally) or balance your way across on partially submerged rocks. Now, work your way up a hillside (600-700 vertical feet) that may be largely free of snow on game trails just right of the powerlines. Go up to the 2nd or 3rd powerline tower (Armin says it's the 4th tower). At the 3rd (Armin says it's the 4th tower), you can gain access to the allegedly public road. Or, at the 2nd, you may be able to contour right. Follow this gently downhill to a fenced area. You can follow the road through a fenced area as it curves left past 4 cabins or you may be able to follow the fence line to the left. You can follow a narrow road (crosses under another set of powerlines) on to the W as it passes a boulder-capped knoll on the left. Just West of this knoll, follow an aspen-filled drainage/gully down (depicted below). Descend probably 600-800 vertical feet to where the ice begins. Rap in off a tree (not fixed) and then with a minimum of 3 V-threads. 3 60m raps gets you to the top of the steep section. Count on 1-4 hours each way. Note, late in the season, this upper parts is entirely exposed to sun and can run with water.
Someone suggested driving to the North rim, descending, & crossing the frozen river, but from what we saw, that looked like a death trap. Word out there is that the FAs used ice skates to access this area from further upstream...yikes!
Ice screws, a stubby or two might be useful, V-thread materials, 60-70m ropes.
Feb 23, 2007
..."There are big cats that inhabit the area."
wow...Leo - maybe it would be a good idea to add'a can of bear/cat pepper spray to the "Protection" list. Would really suc* to have to run from a big-cat while having to post-hole in 2-4' of snow..?!?! Furr-ball o'me-ow ~
|By Leo Paik|
From: Westminster, Colorado
Feb 24, 2007
Nah, when we went down the gully, there were some big kitty prints and a nice bit o' deer for lunch. Made ya think about sticking closer to yer pardner, since kitties tend to snack more on isolated meals & cats are a bit faster than cubbies. Cluck, cluck, cluck.
|By Tim Banfield|
From: Calgary, Alberta
Jan 6, 2010
Didn't rate that climb as a bomb. Don't know how that happened. Ignore it.
|By clay meier|
Jan 3, 2013
I have heard that it is possible to scout this climb from the highway on the other side of the canyon. Any ideas on how/where to do this?
|By Leo Paik|
From: Westminster, Colorado
Jan 3, 2013
My recollection is that a friend of Tom's scouted this from a plane.
|By Scott Krankkala|
Jan 9, 2013
As it turns out, you can scope this climb from the North Rim of the canyon. After Pioneer Point, there is a large switchback that passes by Curecanti Ranch. When the road takes a right turn to follow the rim again, park and walk directly toward the rim and you will be able to see it.
I heard a story from a local climber Ian Hatchett that he discovered the climb after talking to a dam worker at Morrow Point, who told them about a huge icefall up the canyon. He and a friend Bob Wojtalik then rented an airplane and flew down the canyon and got some eyes on the monster.
From: Montrose, Colorado
Jan 28, 2014
Nice and fat this year, approach in deep snow.
Please don't go past the second power line tower! Take the road (snow covered) between first and 2nd tower and follow it east, contouring some hills.