24 Apr Ice climbing in Boulder, CO
For some reason I couldn’t get the ice axe to stick. Each time I hurled the axe towards the ice, it bounced off and left me with heaps of frustration.
I was struggling to climb even a few feet up the ice, and I kept thinking how much harder this was than when we went ice climbing in Iceland.
Ice climbing in Iceland was much different from ice climbing in Boulder–we were scaling a flat sheet of ice on a glacier, and the ice was softer and much easier to hook into. This time, however, we were climbing a frozen waterfall in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado. Even though the ice was rock solid, the waterfall and snow were starting to melt from above causing a fairly steady stream of water flowing over the ice.
Eventually, my axe stuck and I slowly started to make my way up the wall. I didn’t make it to the top like Micah did on his first try, but I did make it about two-thirds of the way up. When my arms felt like they were going to fall off, I decided to give myself a break and head back down.
Although we were looking for more of an ice climbing tour, we ended up booking a four-hour ice climbing lesson with The Bob Culp Climbing School instead. Micah and I were the only two registered for the lesson, and Mr. Bob Culp himself took us out to show us the ropes. We made our way to the mountains just outside of Boulder where we parked by hurling his SUV into a pile of snow on the side of the road. The waterfall was a short hike from our parking spot–we crossed a stream and crawled over boulders and fallen trees to get there. I would have never guessed that there was a climbable waterfall hidden just off the side of the road!
When we arrived at the frozen waterfall, Bob explained the basic fundamentals and got the ropes set up and ready to go while we suited up in our crampons and harnesses. We then learned how to properly tie up and also some of the cues and terminology to use when climbing.
It was then time to get climbing. As I already mentioned, ice climbing in Iceland was way easier. The technicality of this climb was much more intense. You had to actually find spots and pockets in the ice for proper placement of both your feet and axes. Because the ice was harder and more rugged, you couldn’t just swing and stick your axe in anywhere.
After only a few climbs each, we were both exhausted due to the altitude, and we were freezing because of our non-waterproof gloves. With a long drive through the snowy mountains ahead of us, we decided to call it a day. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of the full four hours that we were given, but we both did really enjoy the climbing that we did get to do.
We were happy that we got to have our lesson with Bob–he is a pioneer in the sport and has been climbing since the sixties. He told us many interesting stories about his early years of climbing. When he first started climbing in college, he didn’t know anyone else that was into the sport, so he would just go find routes and climb on his own. It wasn’t until one day when he saw some anchors on a climb that he realized there might be others out there doing the same thing. Eventually he hooked up with the very small community of climbers in Colorado and since then the community has grown exponentially.
Bob opened his climbing school in 1969 and it has a perfect safety record and AMGA certified guides. They offer both rock and ice climbing lessons in the Boulder area, as well as special group programs and longer trips to other locations. If you are looking for an introduction to climbing or for guidance in developing your skills, The Bob Culp School of Climbing is a great option to look into!
We went on this adventure while working on our video project with Best Western–the full video will be posted later this summer!