This historic mining town, 50 miles north of Durango, is impossibly, wonderfully, dead in the winter. One the train stops running, the tourists stop coming and the avalanches start running on Red Mountain Pass, Silverton turns into a terrific place to visit. Since 1997, a few hotels have stayed open all year, including the Teller House, the Triangle Motel and Smedley's B&B. If you need nightlife, better stay in Durango or (gasp!) Ouray. There are two major areas to climb around Silverton; South Mineral Creek to the west of town, and Eureka, to the northeast. Both of these areas are early season areas. Once the snow really starts to fall, the avalanches begin to run and the roads get shut down. Once they're shut, you're looking at a five mile ski through HUGE avalanche zones. Better to hang up your tools and go skiing on the pass.
The most famous climbs are located in Eureka section.
Silverton is located on Hwy 550, 50 miles north of Durango and 20 miles south of Ouray. To get to South Mineral Creek, Head west on 550 out of town and almost immediately trun left onto CR# 585. Drive as far as you can or dare. To get to Eureka, head north out of Silverton on Hwy 110. It's usually plowed as far as the town of Eureka. Beware, if the road is open and the plows are working, you may come back to your car, only to find it buried. Be sure you have a shovel. Also be aware that avalanches can, and do, close this road at any time. They just don't seem to care if it's plowed!
The first pitch goes up a beautiful, wide, chandeliered tongue of ice to bolted anchors on the left (60 m). On the left side, the ice can be thin and undermined - better to stay to the right. WI 4-5, depending on the exact line climbed. A short snow slog goes up to a small bowl (30 m). The second pitch climbs a low-angle ramp of possibly thin, hollow ice to bolted anchors (up and right). 30 m, WI 3.A longer snow slog leads up to a second bowl, where the climb forks (60 m). The left fork is easie...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Went and had a look at Whore House Hoses today up at Eureka. Waded and swam to base of first pitch. It's thin on the left but nice and thick on the right. The bottom is kind of hollow with water running in behind. The upper pitches as seen from the car look like they are forming nicely. Maybe another week for it to become fat?
Did Stairway to Heaven yesterday. It's in great. Ice was wonderful-nice blue plastic, a little wet at the top. Avalanche conditions low, any terrain that poses a threat can be avoided. The road in is clear. Enjoy!
This in from Jared Ogden in Durango: DURANGO: most popular routes like freed canyon and haviland are in decent shape but its been hot lately so they might be deteriorating. Cascade Canyon is in fine shape with most mixed routes in and plenty of TR stuff too. The 7 Year Itch isn't anywhere close to forming and theres not too much else I know about at the moment.
Silverton: I did Stairway to Heaven and it was fun thunker ice with great conditions on route and both approach and descent seemed safe. Hosers Highway doesn't look in condition and I don't know if Whorehouse Hoses is in either but I could see the top pitches and they look blue and fun so the bottom might be in too. Gold Rush isn't in. The First & Second Gullies are in fine. There's a selection of other routes on the west side of the road that look fun but it's been a few weeks of hot weather so I don't know if they're still there. As far as Mineral Creek goes, I don't know cause I haven't been there.
Ouray: Well, I don't know anything really. Bird Brain was hard, I did that 2 weeks ago. Hardly any ice at all and scant pro made it exciting.
At Eureka, 2/26-27: It was cold in Silverton the beginning of this week. The Stairway, Second Gully, Tempered by Fire, and Fat City areas are super fat, and Whorehouse is still good even though the top of the first cone might melt out during several warm days. Goldrush isn't in. There have been a lot of avalanches near the climbs lately.
The direct north face is NOT in (as of 11/17). The campground couloirs are, but sort of ice crust over powder. Really no good climbing in South Mineral Creek right now, although all routes can be groveled up.
Don't expect to get anything less than a monster truck with chains more than 1/4 mile down the road. Bring skis, and watch out for hungry birds.
Went to Ouray/Silverton on Turkey day weekend. Whore House has a few parties, ice is reasonable. Staiway forming nicely.
Skylight area in Ouray forming well. Ice park looking good.
Also...Very Important...last year a climber from Durango named John Nybo found my Cobra and turned it into the college lost and found. When I went to claim it they had no record...does anyone know where it is or who has it?
Nov 30 - Dec 1, Eureka area. County road & parking are good. Stairway to Heaven - good but modest and hopefully growing. lots of traffic on weekends.1st & 2nd Gully are fat. Goldrush is all there but rotting out in current warm front. Hoser's Highway has a very impressive and thick pillar - long approach.
Conditions at South Mineral, Silverton, 11/30: The road up south mineral is snowmobile-packed down. My bro and I started out on skis, but then we ditched them and walked no problem all the way up four miles. Most of the north-facing routes have lots of snow on top. Direct North Face was okay, Snowblind and the Campground Couloirs are mostly covered with snow. Sundance was in but a bit thin, it should be perfect in several days. South Mineral should still be okay until they get a good fresh dumpin.
On Stairway to Heaven:After watching three parties arrive and start for this climb while we were leisurely cooking our eggs on a frosty thursday morn, this couple of naive Taos climbers learned the bitter ways of alpine ice in the San Juans. So we decided to do as the Romans: After a weekend in Ouray, we woke up at four on sunday, drove up Red Mountain Pass under the stars (accompanied by the ever-amusing sounds of A-3), and were the first to start the climb at around 6:30, much to the chagrin of all the parties that were at the trailhead before us, presumably still counting sheep. We empathized with them as we blazed past their darkened SUV's. Quite a beautiful route aside from the old streak of blood on the 1st pitch, signs of somebody absolutely NOT having fun. Ooof. Word of caution: This climb sees so much traffic it is amazing more people don't get into trouble on it. When we retrieved our pack at the base four hours later we met a couple of young kids who were nervously racking up as a major storm blew in, and all to be the last of four parties to be on the route at the same time... If you are going to do Stairway, start hiking at 5:30 and don't be shy about leading the first pitch with a headlamp (and this goes for weekdays too!). If you don't get first dibs by doing this, something must be wrong with your personal climbing karma. Time to start doing some random acts of kindness.Ouray: Skylight area is in but funky, Ribbon is real thin and scary at the bottom but talked to parties who are doing it. The park is wet and fun.Whorehouse: Best to do the line to the far right of base, angle up next to the rock wall to get above the couliflowers and tackle the WI5 headwall there. We did not do this and I kind of regret it. We watched and salivated as a Ouray guide climbed this line with his client.Next time...
I don't know what these people are talking about but Silverton area took a step backwards last week, with temps in the 60's in town much of the ice went away! I check every week by the way. 2nd gully is the only thing, everything else is a week away!
So we went up to Eureka yesterday to climb First Gully. The ice was great and it continues to fatten but beware. I was hit by a big slide on the third pitch. Everyone was ok [fortunately] but it could have been a lot worse. So be [careful] out there.
Went to Silverton on 2/18/06 and climbed Stairway to Heaven. Having been shut out on this climb before, I second the beta from Ivan Locke. We got there first, and had one other party below us. No one else in the valley as far as we could tell. Top was wet and fat, had to wade to the rap.