This is the third time I’ve found myself celebrating something in Ouray. First, getting engaged on the summit of Mt. Sneffels, second my bachelorette party, and now ringing in the New Year/my birthday. The town holds a special place in my heart and the good times and beautiful views never disappoint.
Once again, for the third year in a row, I wanted to spend my birthday ice climbing. With coworkers already planning a trip for New Years, I jumped at the chance to join. Andrew and I packed up our gear and drove down on the Saturday after Christmas. With little experience, we tagged along with others to the Ouray Ice Park. I felt intimidated by the steep and narrow canyon of ice, that I would soon be lowering into.
Everyone we climbed with had experience. Andrew and I quickly felt a lot less intimidated, because everyone was so willing to show us the ropes. We started in the School Room, on the first day in the park. It was the first time I wasn’t miserably cold and could actually enjoy what I was doing. The School Room is a good beginner spot, although we didn’t really start on beginner stuff. On purpose, I didn’t ask about grades until we were done climbing. I just wanted to enjoy being a newbie and trying stuff without the mental block of thinking it might be too hard.
The first climb we did in the park, I went less than half way up before asking to come down. The second climb was a little more mellow and I went nearly to the top. Each time, I got a few more tips and on the third climb, a repeat of the first climb, I made it too the top. I was so dang excited!
On day two, we climbed in another area, a little more advanced. This time, instead of rappelling into the canyon, you get lowered and your belayer stays on the top. After getting nailed with ice the year before, and watching ice fall nearby in the School Room, I was pretty thrilled about this. The first climb we did was long, steep and intimidating. Between the feeling of being “stuck” at the bottom of a cold, sunless canyon and trying out the advice from the day before, I made it to the top.
By the end of day two, I understood ice climbing a little better. I had a grasp on ratings, I understood what not to do while ice climbing (although not doing some of those things is not so easy) and I figured out a layering system that made me happy. In particular, my favorite piece that I wore was the Outdoor Research Contact Gloves, which were sent to me to test for #ORInsightLab. Granted I’m a newbie, and I may or may not have tried to climb in mittens once before, I was in love with these gloves. They had fantastic dexterity, they never got wet, and the grip was great for climbing, belaying and rappelling. Really the best part about these gloves was my warm, happy fingers at the end of two long days. The only downside, they are just a tinny bit too big and once Andrew realized that they fit his hands, he kept trying to steal them.
Despite perfect evenings spent in the hot springs and great meals, we couldn’t make it climbing for three days. My forearms and shoulders were worked and I needed a break. We decided to visit my friend and former room-mate Jenna, in Telluride. Neither Andrew or I had been before and we couldn’t turn down the chance to see the beautiful views and our old friend. After a fun day of exploring the town, we drove back to Ouray for a little too much fun out on the town.
By the end of the trip I was even more in love with the town of Ouray and by end of the long drive back to Golden, I was daydreaming of ice climbing again.