We must have gotten lost on our way to the beach for the spring break party and instead, Sarah and I found ourselves in a cold snowy canyon behind my house in Ouray during a blizzard. The snow was knee deep and accumulating rapidly. The river wasn’t frozen – it never is – that would make travel too easy.
What were we doing in the canyon in the first place? Well, we were crunched for time, many ice climbs are in crummy shape since it’s the end of the season, and well, it seemed like an interesting adventure. I like to call it “winter canyoneering”, but that only partially describes it. Travel through the canyon involves a fair amount of snow slogging, climbing ice, mixed climbing, jumping, falling, crawling, scratching, and sometimes swimming. Hopefully, you’re just swimming through the snow and not the water. The climbing bits involve digging or swimming through snow, ice only forms on the vertical sections and so topping out any bit of climbing gets entertaining, or maybe “degrading” better describes it. There is of course the climbing half formed rotten ice alongside waterfalls that keeps things from getting too boring. Maybe you’ll fall and land in the snow if the ice breaks, but more than likely, you’ll just land in the “not so soft” shallow creek. Every now and again you randomly punch through the snow into a hole. Sometimes the creek is in this hole, and you’ve got to move fast before the water finds it’s way in. You have to make sure to stay “loose” so as not to break your legs in such events. Crawling out of these holes is exhausting, but you just have to remember to laugh. Besides, what you’re doing is totally ridiculous.
Sometimes you get fed up with the post-holing and just walk right through the creek. Crampons give you a couple needed inches of height, but freeze the snow to them as soon as you get out of the water. Remember, all of this builds character so you’re doing yourself a favor. Maybe tomorrow you’ll be a better person!
Eventually, an unfrozen waterfall blocked progress. “Awe shucks”, I forgot the snorkels, “we’ll have to turn back here”. At least the trail was already broken for the return trip.
Being back inside the house by a warm stove felt a lot better than before we left. Funny how that works.