I feel more than a wee bit guilty spending a long weekend in Lake City while Jess is home with a snuffly little girl, but it hasn’t made the climbing any less fun. In fact, the climbing has been pretty darn good. Andy and Gretchen picked me up on Saturday morning at a little past 7:00, and we were on the road shortly thereafter. Although there was snow in the forecast, we got over Monarch Pass and all the way to Lake City with pretty much dry pavement and arrived by about 12:30. We checked into our room at the Matterhorn Motel (same place Pete and I stayed last year) and grabbed some lunch at one of the two open eateries. By the time we sauntered over to the ice park, things were well underway. The top rope and and lead climbing comps were set up in the same spots as last year, and the ice appeared a bit thinner. Andy and Gretchen walked up to the top to set up a top rope on a short little climb just to the left of the little mixed cave in the park while I relaxed below watching the comp and waiting to give advice (only if necessary, of course) in regards to rope placement. We spent a couple of hours taking turns doing laps on the climb in what was a consistent snow that soaked just about everything we had. Just as we were packing things up, someone got clobbered by a large piece of ice from an adjacent climber. It looked for a while as though he may have dislocated a shoulder, or worse, but he managed to regroup and finish the climb after a few minutes of what appeared to be intense pain. We didn’t end up with any pictures and had to hang up the ropes and gear to dry in the closet, but we had a fun time. Later that evening we made the 2-minute walk down the hill to the Packer Grill for a little ice festival afterparty and some beer. Sadly, there was no live band this year, but they did have the skills competition from the weekends NBA All Star Gala on the tube. Although the Packer Grill might be named for Lake City’s famous cannibal, I tried not to hold the decorations from Wisconsin’s famed football team against them.
The next morning we slept in a bit, as things are pretty laid back in Lake City. I made it out the door first and trekked to the coffee shop for a mocha and a bagel. A few minutes later, I was joined by the rest of the team. We chatted a bit with the proprietor before heading back to the room to grab our gear. A few minutes later and we were back in the ice park contemplating our options. This time Andy and I hiked up to the top and we ended up setting up a toprope on what was the lead comp route the day before. Since the climbs are fairly long, we used some cordalettes and a bit of static line to extend the anchor about 40-50 feet from the post glued into the ground until it reached over the lip. It ended up working well with both ends of the 60-meter cord reaching the ground and no rope drag. This was especially nice as there was about 6 inches of fresh snow along the top of the climb.
We managed about 3-4 laps each of the former comp route. It seemed to get easier with each lap despite the growing fatigue in my forearms, so either I was climbing more efficiently as the day went on, finding more of the hooks left from a constant barrage of assaults the day before (quite likely as we were slowly cleaning the snow from the route), or just making more big holes with each ascent. Regardless, we had a splendid time on the ice and thoroughly enjoyed beating ourselves to a pulp. Andy managed to clobber himself in the chin with a decent-sized hunk of ice (there wasn’t really any blood, so it ranks as fairly minor) and I got a little bruise on one knee.
After another night of bar hopping (Lake City has 3 functional bars in the winter), I’m comfortably back in the motel room able to share these pics from the weekend and planning out tomorrow’s climbing. As was the case last year, the festival was a fun low-key weekend in a city full of fun and welcoming people that seemed legitimately glad to have us in town, and just like last year, I’ll be heading back to the front range tomorrow certain that I’ll return next year. Maybe next year Jess and Phoebe will be able to come.