Monday, February 24, 2014

Bridal Veil Falls and the Talisman

Bridal Veil, Telluride, CO. WI5/6

    Even if we had called it off last week, it would be the best season of climbing, well, ever.  But why would we?
    Brett Baekey and I drove to Buena Vista and met David Fay, who graduated CC last year and now teaches math at HMI in Leadville.  That night we crashed in the basement of the Sumggler's Pub in downtown Telluride. We got up at the crack of dawn and hiked it up to the sickest ice in Colorado. 
   In summer, water drops 365 feet without touching rock.  Come winter, blue chandeliers grow on the overhanging rock walls and link together to form a Gothic cathedral of ice.

Brett and David on approach.
   My friend and dedicated alpine partner Carl Deane called Jack Roberts a friend, hero, and mentor.  Jack's passing on Bridal Veil falls took everyone by surprise, and I think it shook Carl's world more than I could imagine.  For me, this climb had connotations of danger, and climbing it seemed a dark proposition.  As Carl likes to say "lets roll the dice".

   Of course the only way to climb ice is in a state of control and calm. Once I found this head-space, I remembered to have fun. The conditions this time of year were easy, and we felt confident. This was steep, featured, type-one fun with more exposure than I could have imagined.  We took the right side.  Given another chance, I would try the cleaner, more aggressive, and more continuous left line.

The Spray Cone.
   Brett took us up pitch 1 with indomitable psyche.  The spray cone was huge, easily weighing hundreds of tons.  It obeys the physics of a glacier. Throughout the season, it separates from the falls above and moves down the smooth rock below, lurching and popping from time to time.  On Brett's lead, he stepped over a huge crack reminiscent of a bergschrund.  From the first large ledge I stemmed my way between daggers and mushrooms, pulling a small roof at the route's crux.  The ice was steep and thoughtful, but never did I go far without a good rest and a chance to collect myself.  At each moment, I took in the full exposure, feeling it's depth.  Not once did I want to be anywhere else, just there, pulling from one stick to the next in perfect ice.

Leading the crux, pitch 2. 
   I finished up the pitch on the bluest part of the pillar, at the center of the falls.  We pulled into a protected cave, and David led the final overhang on the route.  It was a beautiful pitch on twisted, hollow, complicated ice.  We rapped off and finished with the afternoon free.  We checked out the Cornet falls pillar, a moderate line closer to Telluride, and had some good laps.
David pulls out of the cave on pitch 3.

On Rappel

Brett everstoked Baekey

The Talisman:

The Talisman, Camp Bird Road, IV WI6 M6
   I'm not sure how our weekend could get better, but it did.  We went up Camp Bird road in search of the Talisman, hoping to find it still in.  It took a while to commit to the faceted snow slope on approach, and in hindsight that was the most committing move of the climb.  Once on the wall we found every pitch to be technically involved, steep, and wild.

   I took the first pitch, finding the ribbon on the right side sublimated down to rock and moss.  I pulled over ice petals and through steep ground, eventually climbing a pillar narrower than my shoulders for a couple body-lengths.
   Brett was stoked to take pitch 2, the crux.  He floated the overhanging daggers and hummocks, climbing quickly and confidently.  After the rising traverse and the route's pure ice crux, he pulled into an overhanging corner, climbing insecure mixed moves with poor gear in choss.  He displayed control and poise on the pitch, and his send was impressive to watch.  Falling anywhere would not have been good.

Brett at the crux, WI6 M6.  One of the raddest leads I've seen.

The steep mixed terrain on pitch 2.
David and I followed clean, and David racked up for pitch 3. It was the most exposed and photogenic part of the drip.  A couple of mixed moves led his out to a pedestal of ice improbably clinging to the wall.  300 feet of clean air swept below.  Updrafts suspended flakes of drifting snow, hanging and catching the light.  He pulled into fifteen feet of overhanging curtain, and onto the vertical headwall above.
David leads out on pitch 3.

The crux of p.3, WI5+.

the peak at the head of Yankee Boy Basin.
Following pitch 3.
The wildest hang-dangler this side of the Uncompaghre
We rapped the wall with the sun beginning to set.  Our headlamps were off on the dark hike back.  We shared in total contentment, deciding that it doesn't get much better than this.  The crux of the weekend was returning to real life.

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