One Last Day of Prep…and Cancelled

16 Dec 12
arno spiral

Mike Arnold on “Spiral Staircase.” Photo courtesy of the great, Fred Marmsater. Check him out at

A last day of prep and off to Ouray…or so we thought. It’s been a great fall for ice climbing, but the weather gods haven’t favored the skiers among us. No worries, I thought, because I’ve been prepping for my AMGA ice-instructor course (IIC). Even that was questionable, as the San Juans hadn’t received much precip and the Ouray Ice Park is opening late, on December 22. But no worries, locals said there was enough backcountry ice to run the course and the avy danger was low. Until this week.

This last storm cycle has dumped several feet of snow on the San Juans and you guessed it, with high winds. Avy danger up, no time for ice to form, the Park is opening late…and course cancelled. I completely get it–the AMGA has to run a reasonably safe program and their game was up. Cancelled.

At this point most of the course participants are hoping to get bumped to either the New Hampshire or Canmore IIC, but still no word. I’m not too stressed about it–I’m hoping to do my final alpine exam in 2014, so I have all next winter to sneak in my IIC and continue to improve.

Our last day to prep we chose the Rigid Designator Amphitheater up in Vail. It was WARM, but we still got in a couple fun pitches. Mikey Arno warmed us up on the “Spiral Staircase” and then had a look at some mixed line to the right of the Designator. He tiptoed up two bolts, then made a couple taps over on the ice…and WHACK, the thing cracked horizontally. Abort.

He offered me the lead on “Cupcake Corner,” a bolted line further right and about the easiest line in the amphitheater at M5+. Usually there’s ice on the top one-third of the route, but not this year. I got a few tenuous sticks below the chains and that was it. Fun, though.


rob cupcake

Scratching my way up “Cupcake Corner,” a rare moderate amongst the M10s.


Well, I have a couple guide days coming up, reasonable fitness, and a rando race on Tuesday. I’m not complaining. I learned a ton this fall prepping for my course, so hopefully I get to bump into the NH course in February. If not, I’ll get it done down the road. And besides–the snow is falling. Touring, anyone?

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