My friend from "back in the day" (high school), allergist had a condo all to himself in West Vail for a week, and invited me up to stay. With work being slow, I decided I would head up for a 4 day weekend and get some snowboarding in--courtesy of Pete's season pass--at one of the country's best and poshest resorts. On a whim, I called Buster and told him about the situation, and suggested we get on some ice in the Vail area. Thursday and Friday were spent living it up on the slopes, complete with apre ski brewskis, hot tub, and a big warm condo to sleep in. But my friend only had the condo through Friday night. So on saturday morning, Buster and I woke up and switched from ski-condo mode, to ice climbing dirtbag-mode.
We got a late start on Saturday morning after a short night of debauchery in the Village at Vail, a stuffy place at best, packed with lots of rich tourists and burnt out locals. We drove to East Vail and parked our cars in a free lot. Our spot for the day was The Rigid Designator Amphitheater, named for its most consistent and fattest ice flow. The approach consists of crossing through a small neighborhood, then walking along a cross-country ski course, and finally about 500 feet or so up a gully to a massive overhanging rock amphitheater with majestic ice curtains hanging from its lip and dripping down the walls. The amphitheater is home to one of Colorado's most famous and intimidating Ice climbs...The Fang!!!! The Fang was first climbed by Alex Lowe in 1981, in far thinner conditions, and a photo of the FA was on the first cover of Rock&Ice.
Buster decided he wanted to get on The Frigid Inseminator (WI5-5+, M5+ R) (not to be confused with the Rigid Designator or the Rabbid Masturbater), a delicate line consisting of 3 bolts up rock transitioning onto thin and scary ice. Despite being only about 70 feet, this route took Buster about an hour to lead, and scared the shit out of me even though I was only belaying.
I toproped it, thinking the whole time that it was the the sketchiest pitch of climbing I have ever been on. Next up was a mixed route called Cupcake Corner (WI4-5, M5), which Buster redpointed, but not before taking a fall on the first bolt and almost swinging ino me with his death devices (crampons and ice axes).
While I was busy trying not to soil my gore-tex, a toproe mysteriously dropped down from the top of The Fang!!!! and down came Rob. Rob then toprope-soloed The Fang!!!! Since he was alone, I asked him if he wanted a belay so he could lead the climb (and let us toprope it), and he accepted.
Rob is an ice guide on the east coast and has published several guidebooks for that area. He charged up The Fang!!!! in style and even put on a bright Hawaiin shirt so he'd look good in photos. The bottom of the Fang!!!! looks like a giant ice artichoke, or one of those delicious blooming onion apetizers you get at TGI Fridays. After that, it thins out and was about 3 feet in diameter at its thinnest point.
I realized in horror, when I got to that point, that the ice was only about 2-3 inches thick and had water running down its inside walls...wawaweewa!
We were able to glisade most of the way down the trail and then walked back to the cars. That night we poached a hot tub and then hit the bars, before returning to my Van. The van was parked on an angle and I slept poorly, constantly trying not to roll towards Buster, lest I break rule #426 of the Manly Man book which states, "a man shall not sleep closer than 2 inches to another man, except above 11000 feet or when life depends on it." This did not leave me much energy for our next days adventure...The Triple Crown!The Triple Crown is just a term I made up for climbing the Vail Areas 3 main namesake climbs in one day. The first one we hit up was the Pumphouse Ice flow (WI3-4), which I lead, and then we both toproed it a couple times.
The flow is about 600 feet up a snow gully, and is a nice fat frozen waterfall about 60 feet high. Then we hiked down the gully and walked over to The Rigid Designator ampitheater, where we had climbed the day before. There Buster lead the namesake route (WI4-5).
To complete the somewhat illustrious Triple Crown, we hiked around to the next ice area called the Spiral Staircase. There Buster lead the namesake route (WI4), before we glisaded back down to the trail and hiked back to the cars. We again poached a hot tub at a local hotel, before getting in the cars and driving the 2.5 hours back to the Front Range. To see the rest of the photos, go to Mountainroadphotography.com or check them out on Facebook. PullHarder on Ice!