AMY’S BLOG ABOUT ROCK CLIMBING
I have to admit I was initially very nervous about rock climbing in Durango. I have always had a paralyzing fear of heights! I am also a 47 year old mother of two and am admittedly out of shape! But, I am also normally up for an adventure and like to keep up with things to do in Durango. So, so when San Juan Mountain Guides offered to take us climbing, I responded with a hesitant “sure!”
We met our guide, Eric, in the morning just before 8am, at their meeting place at The Rock Lounge in town. He was ready for us, with helmets, harnesses and climbing shoes! After grabbing our gear, he drove us on the 5-minute drive to the edge of town, to X-Rock! We parked and did the 10-minute, easy hike to our climbing spot. It was beautiful (and a little intimidating for me)!! Eric got to work getting the safety lines ready, while discussing climbing strategy with us.
My friend went first (thank goodness!), and she made it almost to the very top! Eric was a pro, talking her through it all and encouraging her every step of the way! When it was my turn, Eric assured me that safety is their top priority; he sensed that I was terrified! But ironically, once I began climbing, all of my fears disappeared! Instead, I was focused on where to place my feet and hands for the next hold. It was challenging to use my leg strength, arm strength, and my core muscles! Eric gave me pointers that really helped, and I was so proud when I, too, made it to almost the very top! The view of the Animas Valley down below was so beautiful! Coming down was just as fun, as I ‘bounced’ all the way down. Eric was impressed with my skills, and I felt more empowered than I have in years!
My first thought, after making it down, was this is a great family-friendly activity in Durango, and that I wanted to take my husband and kids! It was so much better than the indoor climbing walls we’ve done a few times before. To be out in nature, with REAL rock cliffs to conquer—there is nothing like the feeling!
On my second climb, it was a bit more challenging, and I made it about half way up, and was just as proud of myself! My friend made it up all the way on the second time, supported by encouraging cheers from Eric and me.
After our half-day climbing adventure, we hiked back down to the vehicle, and after Eric drove us back to our car, we went for a celebratory beer and lunch at Brew Pub & Kitchen, one of our many favorite local breweries, and talked about when could go climbing with Eric again!
Maybe next time, we will advance from the beginner climb to the more advanced one. I for one, am up to the challenge! (note: when you go, remember to bring hiking shoes, clothes with a breathable fabric, and a small backpack with 2 water bottles and a light snack). Thank you, to Eric and San Juan Mountain Guides, for not only helping me with my fear of heights, but for one of the best days ever, out in nature, rock climbing in Durango – our own little rock climbing paradise!
With the attainment of our permit to Rocky Mountain National Park, our season has begun and we are super excited to share some trip reports with you. Please feel free to call us to discuss our programs and possible climbing objectives in RMNP.
It was a fat winter and spring in the park, that made for outstanding conditions on the Dreamweaver Route on Mt. Meeker. Steve Johnson, SJMG lead RMNP guide has climbed Dreamweaver more than a dozen times. He said by far the conditions on May 29th this year were the best he has ever seen, in full ice and perfect alpine neve conditions. “It was absolutely wonderful climbing the entire way,” states Johnson.
Dreamweaver comes into climbing shape in the spring & fall with the melt freeze cycle to create quality ice and firm snow. Best described as a mixed alpine route, it climbs through the major couloir formation to the left of the Flying Buttress on Mt. Meeker. Highlights of the route are the great gully system that eventually turns into a neat chimney, in some conditions there are rock or mixed pitches that are really fun, and the route gets better as you ascend. The top out is a 4th class ridge that brings you to the summit.
Steve’s guest Eric had a wonderful time, “It was a very enjoyable climb in perfect conditions. I learned a lot. Steve didn’t just guide me up the route, he instructed, he taught me skills, and he made it a super great learning experience.”
Other great routes on Mt. Meeker include the Flying Buttress & Darkstar. There are lots of great early season ice in RMNP, so if you are interested in getting a jump start on ice climbing in the fall, call us to set up a climb with Steve.
The second trip to the Moose’s Tooth is now finished. They had a great time in the Ruth Gorge and a fun climb of Ham n’ Eggs. It was a great season for SJMG in Alaska. Thanks to Andrés and Elías for conducting fun & safe climbs. Call us if you are interested in joining us in the future for an Alaska Expedition. Cheers!
Andrés, Owen, and Will are currently resting on the Root Canal Glacier. Yesterday was a huge day for them. They successfully climbed the Mooses’s Tooth formation via Ham n’ Eggs. Andrés checked in with the In Reach late last night with the news of their accomplishment. Great climb guys! Stay tuned for more news from them.
Here is a recap of Elías de Andrés Martos’s recent expedition to the Moose’s Tooth to climb Ham n’ Eggs.
Our trip to the Moose’s Tooth was a memorable climbing experience! There’s nothing like a motivated, competent and fun partner to undertake such a challenge. Brian, who spent the winter training hard on our fantastic southwest Colorado ice, came up to the task, and crushed it on Moose’s Tooth.
We flew into the Root Canal on the best weather day possible, and soon after setting up camp, we were contemplating climbing that very night. With decent forecast in the AK Range one needs to take advantage of any possible window. And so we launched! At 4:45am or so, we started our approach. A light cover of new snow had fallen on that night, and after a few pitches on the route proper, visibility became sparse, and a few sluffs added weight to our decision to take it as an exploratory day, and turn back to camp.
Soon after a deserved nap, the now obvious materialization of a high pressure system, was giving us hopes of trying again at night. A bit earlier, this time we left the comfort of our tents at 4:30am, on a way more bitter cold morning, filled with stars in the sky, we were now sure weather wouldn’t be an issue. With the lower part scouted the day before, our progress to the base of the crux pitch only took 2h from our tent. Moderate rock and snow climbing, preceded a couple dozen feet of rotten “snice”, topped by a slightly overhung mushroom of ice. A laughter and an out loud “that was fun” from Brian, assured me the quality of my partner at this point.
The coming up section, or middle third of the route, proved very enjoyable; narrower steps of nearly vertical, short sections of ice, followed by moderate snow were just pure joy, all while entrenched in the narrow granite of the Moose’s Tooth, and with the breathtaking views of the great Ruth Glacier and surrounding peaks when we turned our heads around.
A couple more hours and we were be at the Col, with expansive views in every direction over the Range. A short break behind a serac, parkas on for the remainder, and the summit smiles wanted to pop on our faces already, we knew that the corniced ridge would be the last bit of terrain to manage before an incredible reward.
Denali, Hunter, Huntington, Dickey, Bear Tooth… and countless other peaks were all visible from the top. With no weather to rush us back, we enjoyed a few extra minutes of pictures and high fives. Shortly after, a careful down climb preceding hours of rappelling, would be our uneventful descent, only interrupted to peel layers off as we dropped elevation, and to snack while the views of the surrounding walls changed with the new lower elevation.
Some 14h after our start in the morning, ropes were being pulled, and another 20 min walk to camp urged us to discuss the most important part of the day; “what would be for dinner?” The answer was clear; “steak is for dinner!!!
Come climb in the AK Range with SJMG!!!
Elias had a great trip in the Root Canal Glacier to climb the Moose’s Tooth. They are safely back in Talkeetna celebrating. Stay tuned for a recap of their trip!
Our second AK expedition is en route to Talkeetna today. Andrés Marin is accompanied by two great guests, they are planning to fly into the Root Canal in the next day or so. Stay tuned on their progress.
Elias and his partner had a successful climb of the Moose’s Toothe formation via the Ham n’Eggs route yesterday. He informed us via In Reach message that the weather was perfect and the summit views were awesome. They completed ascent and descent back to camp in just over 14 hours. Way to go guys! Congrats! Now the team is back at camp planning next move. Stay tuned.
Our first trip to the Ruth Gorge in the Alaska Range is in progression. Elías de Andrés Martos is there with a solid partner. They flew onto the Root Canal Glacier two days ago. Their plan is to climb the Moose’s Tooth formation today, weather & conditions allowing. The ultra classic route Ham n’ Eggs (V,5.9,AI 4) is 2,800 feet of technical alpine ice/mixed climbing.
Winter is at our doorstep here in Ouray. We have had some great snow storms over the past few weeks which will transfer nicely to good skiing and ice climbing. It is important to note the type of snow we have been receiving has had good water content. This especially makes for a perfect ice recipe. When we get sunny days and cold nights the melt freeze cycle will put us in excellent shape for ice formation. We eagerly hope that the precipitation keeps coming to beef up our snowpack and ice flows for this winter.
With the joy of winter’s arrival, we hope that everyone has begun to train for ice climbing. This week’s Pre-Season Stoke Training Series will focus on CORE STRENGTH. Your body revolves around your core. All of your movement originates from your abs, therefore having a solid core will transfer to good balance and body tension while climbing. Maintaining body tension with strong abdominals will promote good control & efficiency during your movement.
For a slew of great core exercise ideas checkout this article by CLIMBING.
Here are a few a really good core/grip strength combination exercise. This incorporates our previous Pre-Season Training topic, Grip Strength with Core Strength.
Dead Hang on Ice Tools with Ball Support
Lock-Offs with Ball Support
One Arm Dead Hang with Ball Support
Disclaimer: These exercises are intended to give you ideas to enhance your pre-season training sessions. Please consult a professional trainer or athlete for appropriate training schedules that fit your climbing goals and fitness level.
Have you busted out your tools yet?
Grip Strength is very important to ice climbing. Often the forearm pump & lack of grip strength will cause an ice climber to get exhausted, just not being able to hold on any longer. In your training sessions, be sure to incorporate exercises that develop grip strength to get ahead of the pump come ice climbing season. Remember to work opposing muscles to balance your body and avoid injury.
I caught up with two of our lead guides Andrés & Gary in the gym and asked them which specific exercises they recommend to enhance grip strength. They gave me great ideas to share with you. Here are some grip strength exercises to add to your training repertoire.
Dead Hang – Simply hang on a pull-up bar. Or use ice tools. Hook tools high on a secure surface. Hold each tool and hang with shoulders engaged, think of squeezing shoulder blades together and maintaining good posture through-out shoulders, chest, & neck. Suggested Set: Hang for 10 seconds and then rest 10 seconds; do 10 rounds for one set. Do three sets total with a few minutes of rest between each. Add five to 10 seconds to each hang every week. For varied grips try using a finger board for dead hangs. You can change the grip based on the holds you use.
Pull Ups with an Open Grip – On a pull up bar do open handed grip pull ups. You can also do this on a finger board to change the grip. Doing regular pull-ups on a pull-up bar or on ice tools would be great too. Use good technique while doing any kind of pull-up. Obviously pull-ups not only enhance grip strength, but the entire upper body will benefit from properly executed pull-ups.
Farmer’s Carry – Chose appropriate weight dumb bells or kettle-balls to hold in each hand with a straight arm. The weight should be somewhat challenging. Walk with good posture holding these weights for as long as you can, or incorporate it as a station in a circuit training session.
Hand/Finger Curls – Hold a weight bar with straight arms either in front or behind you. Slowly & smoothly uncurl and curl your hands & fingers. Do controlled repetitions of this grip strength exercise. Another great station in a circuit training session.
Simple Wrist Weight Bar Raise – This is a good one that mimics the swing of an ice tool by engaging the forearm muscles while working on grip strength. With a small weight bar hold it straight down by your side, slowly & smoothly raise the bar with your wrist, and then lower it.
Disclaimer from SJMG: This pre-season stoke training series is intended to give you ideas to enhance your training sessions. Please consult a professional trainer for a specific training schedule appropriate for your fitness and climbing goals.