MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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February 9, 2012

Learning the Ropes of Ouray Ice Climbing

On the home front, Ouray Ice Climbing has picked up some speed as several of the Mountain Madness guides are down in Colorado for the ice climbing season. MM Guides Matt Barela and Marc Ripperger took to the ice this last weekend with newby Keith H. and set him up with a good set of skills and techniques and turned him into an official ice climber! 

MM Guide Matt Barela writes:

"Here, fellow Madness guide Marc Ripperger and I sit in Ouray, Colorado enjoying winter that has finally arrived. It is February 4th and we are meeting Keith H, a long-time and great client of Mountain Madness. It is Keith's first time to Ouray and his first stab at the more technical side to climbing. 

"Guide Marc Ripperger spent the first day with Keith in Ouray Ice Park giving him the run down on the basics to sending ice in style. I had another client that day, but Marc and I teamed up and headed to what is known as the Scottish Gullies area of the ice park. As our luck would have it, we had 3 other guides in our area that day, which made for a great session of rope swapping to get in as many lines as possible.

"Keith showed up that morning with a great attitude to push himself and give ice climbing a go. Marc started him off with the basics of a strong stance and a swing, what we call the "triangle." They also covered things such as different types of tools and how to shape one's swing for that particular tool. It was also Keith's first time in the outdoor world belaying. So, the proper belay technique was covered, as well as how to give a nice and slow lower, which is nice on ice. At the end of the day, Keith had crushed it and was officially an ice climber!

Matt Barela photo

"Day 2, it was my turn to take Keith out and show him around the ice park. We chose to go to an area known as the school roome. The school room is a great place to push things on Day 2, since the climbs get tall (over 100 feet) and are up to WI4. Keith and I arrived around 8:30 a.m. and were suprised to find very few people in the park that morning. So we took to the ice and put together all the tools Marc had given him the day before. He once again showed how he was a great athlete as he did great and fired up the steep and tall ice.

"It was great working with Keith; he is very good at picking things up. He coaches triathletes and cyclists so he knows how to listen and apply what he learns. At the end of Day 2, Keith had come away from Ouray with a good foundation for being a solid well-rounded climber. He is now ready to tackle backcountry ice climbs or get after it in the big technical alpine world.

"I want to say thanks to Keith for a great time and I hope to see more people make it out to Ouray to hone their ice climbing skills. I just love the winter down here in Ouray and see no better place to learn to ice climb. If you have dreams of big technical alpine lines, I encourage you to head out here to Ouray to learn the art of ice climbing. Now get out there and have a great adventure!"

~ MM Guide Matthew Barela

Matt Barela photo