Ryan Riggins is a Durango transplant, originally from Orinda, California. He came to Colorado chasing the “white surf” as he went from a the never-ending Cali summers to the never-ending winters of the San Juans. A Fort Lewis graduate in Marketing, Ryan has been guiding since his Sophomore year in College. Ryan received his SPI instructor certificate with San Juan Mountain Guides and has been with the company since then. This year serves as his first year officially leading trips and we are thrilled to have this “young-gun” on our team!
What is the most rewarding experience of being a guide?
The most rewarding part of being a guide is being the individual that helps people realize a goal or dream using the skills that many of us have spent years developing and giving those skills and additional purpose and meaning.
What’s the best part of guiding in the San Juan Mountains?
The best part of guiding in the San Juans would have to be the accessibility to the backcountry and some of the most aesthetic technical peaks in Colorado. The San Juans offer world class terrain for any sport or season , in addition half the crowds you find in the front range or elsewhere in the United States.
What’s your go-to “On the Trail” snack or meal?
I love garlic beef summer sausage, cheese and crackers. Lots of calories and fat to keep you going in addition it won’t go bad over a couple of days.
What’s the one thing people usually don’t know about Mtn. Guides?
Most mountain guides are in the process of getting a college education (me) or have received a degree. We are very educated contributors to society who just love to spend more time in the woods than the average person.
What’s the one thing you want to do when you get back from an extended trip?
Crack a cold beer and enjoy the company of good friends.
I was climbing in Red Rocks and if you have climbed there before you will know that many will say that the climbing is never the toughest part. In fact descending is where most people run into trouble. My friend Tayrn Pierce and I were no exception to this known trend.
We thought it would be fun to climb Solar Slabs a 5.6 1,200 ft route and make quick work of it. We climbed the route with ease and topped out around 5pm a little later than we wanted although everything was still going just fine. This all came to a screeching halt when unknown to Tayrn and I, we began to descend down the wrong gulley.
The sun was going down and I wanted to at least get down a couple hundred feet before it got totally dark. This did not happen, first the rope got stuck and I had to ascend back up the rope using prusiks and by that point we had been benighted. Luckily we had headlamps and continued down 1,600 feet of dense shrubbery and attempted to route find in the dark knowing the only way to go was down, someway somehow.
We would follow carins through the darkness that ultimately led to massive cliffs with no obvious way of descending . The walls were so tall that we couldn’t even see the ground or develop an image of where we were to orient ourselves and possibly make the descent that much easier. Eventually after countless rappels into the dark abyss we safely made it to the ground 14 ½ hrs later. Luckily the other members of the group had held off on alerting the local authorities and a couple people came looking to see if they could find us or possibly just looking for Tayrn considering she is a very pretty, nice and athletic girl.
So many ask what could you learn from this EPIC, well my take away is to always climb with a pretty girl because if you do go missing someone will always come looking for her and you can just be there to benefit from it.
What’s one thing that the mountains have taught you?
The mountains have a way of teaching you that a plan is never a hundred percent full proof and that to be successful in the mountains you must be adaptable to the situations as they occur in real time.
Check out our upcoming trips as we enjoy the remainder of the summer and head into Fall: http://mtnguide.net/
Andrés and Christel had a wonderful expedition to Alpamayo. They have been enjoying the descent and being in the mountains. This morning they were in Cachapampa and will be going to Huaraz today. We look forward to hearing their stories and seeing photos. Congratulations on a great trip!
Congratulations Andrés and Christel! ¡Felicidades!
The team started climbing from High Camp around midnight last night and were the first on route. After climbing through the night they were rewarded with a beautiful summit. Andrés checked in this morning from High Camp. They had an awesome climb and are now resting.
Andrés and Christel are doing well at High Camp (5,490m/18,011 ft.). They are feeling strong and tonight will go for the summit of Alpamayo (5,947m/19,512ft).
The French Direct Route leads out from the glacier, over a significant bergshrund, and onto the steep, beautiful SW face of Alpamayo. The team will endeavor the climbing of 50-70 degree ice for many continuous pitches, to top out on the glorious summit pyramid.
Alpamayo in Quechuan signifies: Alpa – Earth, Mayu – River. May the continual energy of the Earth River flow though them as they climb tonight! ¡Buena Onda Andrés y Christel!
Andrés phoned in this afternoon. Christel and him are doing terrific, both are feeling great. Christel is super strong and positive, so together they are an outstanding team. They are at Moraine Camp (4,900m/16,075ft) tonight and hope to advance to high camp tomorrow (5,490m/18,011 ft.). We are cheering them on from the San Juans, wishing them a safe and fun journey as they go higher.
Andrés and Christel are doing excellent en route to Alpamayo. They are at Base Camp (4,300m/14,100ft) feeling great. Today they did a carry to Moraine Camp (4,900m/16,075ft) and will stay tonight at Base Camp. Sending them BUENA ONDA, positive vibes from the San Juans!
San Juan Mountain Guide Bill Grasse captures the experience of summiting Mt. Sneffels with his client. Mt. Sneffels is located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in the SouthWest of Colorado. It is a prestine 14,000+ peak and considered a classic in Colorado. If you are interested Mt. Sneffels or Mountaineering in the San Juans’- reach out to our expert staff who can answer all of your questions and book your trip. or mtnguide.net
San Juan Mountain Guide’s second Alpamayo Expedition of the season is underway. Senior Guide, Andrés Marin is accompanied by the wonderful Christel Hennet. They arrived to Huaraz over the weekend with time to watch Christel’s team win the World Cup, Congrats!
Yesterday they met the burros and hiked from Cachapampa to the first camp. Andrés checked in and all is well.
Today they are heading to base camp. Wishing them a fun journey in the cordillera!
Classic Couloirs of the San Juans
Gilpin Peak’s North Face Couloir
The San Juan Mountains are blessed with a lifetime’s worth of climbing and mountaineering challenges in all seasons. One of the most overlooked times of year to climb in the San Juans are the months of May and June. Ample winter and spring snow is an excellent recipe for spring climbing conditions – especially on some of the area’s classic couloirs. One such classic climb is the North Face Couloir on Gilpin Peak.
Gilpin Peak is situated high in Yankee Boy Basin, directly across from the massively popular Mount Sneffels. The North Face Couloir is unmistakable, as it splits the steep North Face of Gilpin Peak directly down it’s center. Timing is a very important consideration on this climb, as at this time of year, the couloir comes into the sun at first light – so start early. For the climb on this day, we left Ouray at 0430.
The couloir gradually steepens as you climb, eventually reaching a sustained 55 – 60 degrees in steepness during the last 3rd of the climb. There is a choice towards the top to climb either the left finish or the right finish to the couloir. The left finish typically sports an overhanging cornice which makes that finish more difficult and much steeper at the crest of the ridge. The right finish is narrower and also steep, but doesn’t typically have much of a cornice at the top. We opted for the right finish on this day, and found excellent climbing conditions in that part of the couloir.
We brought a few pickets to protect some of the long steeper sections of snow, and then a few cams for protection in the narrower section of the couloir. I found a good spot to belay the steepest section of snow right where the rock that splits the upper part of the couloir meets the lower part of the couloir. A .75 Black Diamond Camalot offered excellent protection in that section.
After you crest the ridge, the last 100 vertical feet to the summit are quite easy, and end on the huge, flat summit of Gilpin Peak. As with most peaks in the San Juans, there are fantastic panoramic views of the entire range, with the Telluride Ski Area seemingly only a stone’s throw away. The descent heads down the ridge towards Blue Lakes Pass, then loops back into upper Yankee Boy Basin and basically involves class 2 walking.
Overall, this is one of my favorite couloir climbs in the range because of it’s steepness, aesthetics, positioning, and time-friendliness (we summited at 0800 and were down by 10am).
The Alpamayo Expedition is safe and they are now on their return trek to Cachapampa. They attempted the summit two nights; the 4th and 5th. Due to energy levels and weather, they did not make the top. Certainly, the journey was incredible and they learned a lot. That’s what these expeditions are all about, learning about the mountains and about yourself. We look forward to hearing accounts of the trip from Andrés, Nathan, and Jerry. Tomorrow they plan on arriving in Huaraz to celebrate.