Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tiki Part 2

Since climbing Tiki Tower a couple weeks ago I've talked to Jeff a bit about the first ascent.  In November 1991 Jeff Widen, Mitch Allen, Paul Frank and Fred Lifton all hiked up to Tiki Tower to climb it.  Paul and Fred stayed at the saddle on top of the first pitch while Mitch and Jeff pushed the route two more pitches to the summit.  The stance on top of pitch two isn't very large so Paul and Fred were likely waiting below until they could jug a line to the summit.  The last pitch however is a bolt ladder, so by the time Jeff topped out it was well past dark as he remembers.  Mitch cleaned the pitch and met Jeff on the summit.  Paul and Fred likely cold from sitting in the saddle for hours wanted nothing but to rappel to the ground and warm up.
The tower itself is named after a small tiki that Mitch brought all the way to the summit.  Jeff and I were looking through his slides from the trip and were disappointed that he didn't have any photos of the actual tiki.
Fast forward a week, to a phone call from Brad.  Every week Brad hosts a monday night bouldering session at his home wall in Three Rivers, CA.  A new climber recently moved to the area and came to the bouldering session last monday night, his name is Mitch.  Brad and Mitch ended up bullshitting about climbing and Mitch says that he climbed a desert tower years ago.  An obscure one named Tiki Tower!  Turns out the Mitch is Mitch Allen and he still has the tiki 24 years later.  What a small world.
Tiki Tower's namesake.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grand Gulch Spire

I've had my eye on Grand Gulch Spire for years.  This summer I actually planned the trip to Grand Gulch, but last minute decided to climb the Popes Nose instead, since it was 100+ degrees in the desert.  Even though the first ascent was in June, I decided that it would be better to climb the tower in late fall when things were cooler.  Especially since I wanted to approach the tower via a 10 mile hike from Collins Spring as opposed to the .5 mile walk from the San Juan River.  Most people raft down the San Juan and pull over at Grand Gulch to climb the tower.  Logistically rafting is more complicated for me since I don't own a raft.
Water falls in Grand Gulch
Geoff did some research by calling the BLM office in the area to get current conditions on the road into Collins Spring.  They told him that the road was basically impassible and that there was a giant rock slide so the river wasn't accessible from above.  We decided that we would just hike farther and carry all of our water with us.  Luckily we found the road to be dry and although a little rough here and there Geoff thought he could have gotten his Subaru to the TH.  I left the TH with 7 liters of water and Geoff had 8.  Funnily enough there was a ton of flowing water in Grand Gulch, pot holes full of water, and the rock slide was easily crossed.
Pitch 4 traverse
Summit! Luckily no headlamps were needed.
We got to the base of the the tower with enough light that we decided to do the route that evening.  We started climbing at about 2pm and were back on the ground around 5pm.  The route was wide, a little dirty, and chossy in spots but to be expected on a tower that doesn't get climbed that often.  We slept right at the base of the route and in the morning went down to check out the river.  We had walked 10 miles and could see the San Juan River from the tower, we figured we might as well go down to it.  After that we started the long hike back to the truck.  Our legs were feeling the miles from the day before and although our packs were lighter than the hike in, they were still heavy.  It's hard to go light when the rack is a double set through #5 and one #6.
Grand Gulch Spire
Once again, not surprisingly, Geoff and I had a great time adventuring in an amazing area!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Tiki Tower

I asked Jeff the other day what I should do on a free day I had, he responded, "solo a tower!"  When pressed as to which one I should solo he responded, "do Tiki Tower!" Jeff Widen put up the first ascent of Tiki Tower in 1991 and it hasn't that many ascents in the past 24 years so it's not surprising he would suggest it.  
Jeff's hand drawn topo.
I left for Tiki at around 8pm, after a day of sport climbing at Golf Wall and margs and mexican food.  I arrived at my camp spot at the Lathrop Trail at 2:30am.  I don't mind a little four wheeling but I'd forgotten how long it takes to drive anywhere on the White Rim!
Airport Tower on the left. Tiki is hard to see on the right of the spiky ridge.
I woke at 7:30 and started to slowly pack the gear I'd tossed into the back of the truck the night before.  The hiking went fast and I was at the base just over 30 minutes after setting out. 
A proud shot of Tiki Tower.
As expected the route was a little dirty and loose here and there but all in all was a great time.  There was brand new tat at the anchor on top of the first pitch but whom ever replaced it seemed to have not made it to the top since the cord on the summit was in bad repair.  

On top of Tiki with Airport Tower in the background.
 I turned on my phone to take a few photos on the summit and was surprised to find that I had great service.  So I spent the next hour enjoying the views and texting friends and family.  Eventually I got cold and decided it was time to head down.
Great route Jeff!

Check out Tiki Part 2 here

Oklahoma Climbers Gathering

Matt has been talking for years about how amazing the climbing in Oklahoma is.  I decided that it was time to find out if this claim had any backing.  I mean it's freaking Oklahoma!

The first stop was The Narrows in The Wichita Wildlife Reserve.  It was a humid day but Matt put me on the classics.  The highlight for me being a route called Arial Anticipation.  Arial Anticipation is out of character for the area, with steep, well protected climbing.  It was a nice mental break from the heady climbing we'd done during the day.  
Ben, Matt and Chase on top of Snakes Head. 
The next day the weather report forecasted rain, so we hung out in Starbucks in Lawton until it cleared then went for a jog up Mt. Scott.  On the third day we planned on cragging at Crab Eyes and Lost Dome.  After a few trad pitches in Testarossas at Crab Eyes and watching Tony Mayas rope solo everything at Lost Dome I was ready to call it a day.  Lost Dome looked to have some good climbing but unfortunately my stoke was low.

Next up we headed to a place called Quartz Mountain for the Bi-annual climbers gathering.  We arrived just before dusk and ran up Snakes Head, an easy 5th class free solo.  It was nice to move over some terrain quickly.  Snakes Head is hard enough to feel like climbing and easy enough to not worry about falling.
Ben on Wild Child
People trickled in all evening and by the time we woke the parking lot was packed.  Matt showed me a bunch of great runout slab routes which were mentally challenging but fun.  The highlight being a route called Last of the Good Guys.
Honestly, more than the climbing I was super impressed with the climbing community in Oklahoma.  Twice a year they have a climbing gathering where everyone gets together to party, hang out and climb.  Even though the climbing community is small and people are coming from everywhere from Kansas to Texas it appears as if everyone that climbs in OK knows each other.  Compare that to Durango where there is a more concentrated population of climbers but many of them don't know each other.  I've been climbing in Durango for 13 years and don't feel like I know all of the long time locals.  All in all I'm really  impressed with the stoke that Oklahoma climbers have for their local crags.  Big thanks to Matt for showing me around is old stomping grounds!
Matt and I cooking dinner.  Photo by Carl Zoch

Monday, November 16, 2015

Brahma Temple

I got off at 7am from a 72 hr shift in Farmington.  I grabbed some food at Walmart on the way out of town and drove to the Grand Canyon.  I hiked down to Phantom Ranch on the S. Kaibab Trail and met up with John around 2pm.  We were going to have a dry camp so we loaded up on water before we left the ranch.  We hiked up toward Zoroaster and Brahma until the sun went down and set up camp just below the Hermit Shale layer.  
Zoraster from high on Brahma.
Note John in the bottom of the photo.
We got up well before sunrise and took off at 5:20am.  While traversing the Western edge of Brahma we decided to try a route that looked doable at easy 5th.  Things went well and we were on top at 8am!  We saw slings at 15' and 50' off the ground but besides that nothing.  Surely this wasn't a FA, but it was a fun alternative to the 4th class.     
We headed down the standard 4th class route and headed back to Phantom Ranch.

The weather started to roll in while we were starting up the S. Kaibab.  When we got up to O'Neill Butte we tried to find the 4th class route up but decided not to gild the lily with the loose, wet rock and the route not being obvious. 

After bailing on O'Neill we headed up to the South Rim with the snow starting to fall softly.  We got to the TH as it was getting dark.  Great climbing with you John!  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mt. Watkins and The Nose

We had 5 days planned in The Valley this October.  However, there seems to be a theme in 2015 that when I try to climb I either get shutdown by rain partially or completely.  Luckily the rain only cut our Yosemite trip down to 3 days.  We arrived in the valley on the evening of the 18th to rain.    Luckily our new friends from the Bugaboos Melissa and Anthony had a campsite already and invited us to camp with them.  We woke early the next morning to climb Mt. Watkins, a wall that neither Matt nor I had ever seen.  We hiked in the dark on discontinuous trails until we miraculously arrived at the base of the wall soaking wet from wet vegetation and sweat.  The approach slabs were running with water but luckily the fixed lines were in place and we were able to batman past.  Watkins was sort of a trial run before we attempted the Nose on El Cap in a day.  We wanted to see how fast we could move and see if any of our systems needed to be tweaked before the big day.
Matt had the first block which ended at the Sheraton Watkins ledge on top of pitch 8.  Matt drew the short straw since the first 6 pitches were wet, whereas the rest of the route was dry.
8 pitches above the Sheraton Watkins I was getting tired and slowing down so I lead one more and Matt took back over to lead the last two pitches to the summit.  We topped out just under 8 hrs on route.  We hiked the 3 miles to the road in Tuolumne gambling that someone would take pity on us.  Luckily, before too long a couple on their honeymoon from Utah picked us up and gave us a ride back to the valley.
We spent the next day doing errands around the valley and resting before the big day on the Captain.  Originally we were going to casually climb the first 4 pitches up to Sickle Ledge.  Onsighting up to the beginning of the Stove Legs is supposed to be challenging.  We decided to skip the trial run and just do it in the dark on game day.  Now to be fair, 11 years ago Amanda and I climbed up to Sickle Ledge and then rappelled off, so we weren't completely onsighting.  Upon seeing 8 groups on the route we decided to get up at 1am, in the hopes of passing as many groups as possible while they were still sleeping or just waking up.
I wake up to Matt's alarm.  We get dressed, stuff sleeping bags, pack up our tent, walk to Curry Village, eat some leftover pasta, then hop in the car and the clock reads 1:08am.  "Did that only take 8 minutes?" I ask Matt.  He just laughs.  Turns out all that coughing and clearing on his throat that he was doing while I was sleeping was actually him trying to wake me up.  Matt was like a kid on Christmas morning that just couldn't wait to open presents.
I had the first block this time. We started at 2:30am and did great with route finding in the dark until I went one crack system to far right at the beginning on the Stove Legs.  Luckily Matt caught it before I got us too far off route.  I was able to swing back left and in a 70m pitch get us back on track at the top of pitch 9.
Matt took over and raced up the Stove Legs and up to El Cap Tower passing 2 parties that were just waking up.  I would jug the pitch that Matt just lead and he would just be finishing the next pitch.  I'd unfix the line, he'd pull up the line, refix it, and I'd start jugging again.  We passed another party on top of Boot Flake.  I took over at the King Swing and started my second block.  We hit 2 more parties at Camp IV and finally passed them by the top of the Pancake Flake where Matt took back the lead.  So far we'd passed 5 parties and there were still 3 above us.  Unfortunetly we were only able to pass one more party before the top as one of the groups wouldn't let us pass.  All in all we topped out in 15 hrs. and had a great time on an amazing hunk of rock.
We hurried down the East Ledges, cleaned up, ate some food and drove 3 hrs into Nevada where we finally slept in a gravel lot on the side of the road.  Matt had to get back to work and I was headed to Gunnison to see my beautiful wife Amanda.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Wilson El Diente Traverse

On September 12th Amanda and I pulled into the Kilpacker trailhead parking lot around 9:30pm and crawled into the back of the vehicle to sleep.
We had tried to climb these two 14,000' peaks together multiple times between 2004-2006, but every time the weather would turn ugly and some combination of rain, hail and lightning would turn us around.  Our weather this time however looked splitter.
We woke at 3am and left the TH at 3:30.  Amanda set a fast pace in the dark and before long we were in Kilpacker Basin and then heading up El Diente.

As we ascended the southern
slopes of El Diente the terrain got gradually more exposed and technical.  Just below the ridge we paused to put on our helmets.  At the ridge the wind picked up a little and the cold bit through our clothing so we kept moving, summiting El Diente at 8am.  The traverse as always requires route finding and caution.  There are many places with loose rock and big exposure.  Amanda did amazingly well for not having been in that kind of terrain in many years.  We finished the traverse and the short section of ridge to the Mt. Wilson summit.  Arriving just before 10:30am.
We descended a slightly easier route back down to the Kilpacker Basin.  If you haven't been to Kilpacker Basin it's basically one giant talus pile. To offer our feet and legs some relief we aimed for the small patches of snow that were still sticking around from last winter.  Boot skiing on the snow was much easier and faster that negotiating the talus.  We got back to the TH at 1:45pm, jumped in the car and headed back to Durango.  My dad was flying into town that afternoon and we had to get back to meet up with him.  What a great day! It was a beautiful day in the mountains with the best wife in the world!


2015 Elk Hunting

For the 5th year in a row family from Michigan came out for the muzzleloader elk season.  We had learned a lot in past years and this year things finally came together.   My cousin Mick who had been out in 2012 shot a 6 by 5 on Tuesday at 6pm.  With everyones help we had the elk quartered and up to the truck by 9:30pm.  I can't imagine how long it would have taken if it was just one guy doing all the work!
Mick's 6 by 5.
On Thursday morning we got some bulls bugling and my cousin Bob who had never elk hunted before got a 5 by 5.  This time we had everything up to the road in 4 hours.  I'll tell you, its a lot of work to haul that much meat up 1,100' to the vehicle!
Ben, Bob, Don Jr., Randy, and Ed.
(Mick came later and Bill supported from the car) 
I always look forward to seeing the Kiessel family during the Elk season.  I'm already looking forward to next year!

Friday, August 7, 2015


With all the rainy weather this spring, there was a lot of canceling of planned climbing trips.  So when Matt and I flew to Calgary on our way to the Bugs we hadn't climbed together in over two months.  In fact we hadn't been climbing much of anything even separately.  My motto was that climbing ability wasn't going to slow us down in the bugs, overall physical fitness would.  So we focused on overall fitness and hoped that we would remember how to climb, place gear, manage the rope, etc.  Matt picked me up on Friday evening at the Calgary airport in the rental car he had picked up earlier that afternoon.  We drove west past all of the cheap hotel options and all the expensive hotel options, until the only options were to keep driving or sleep on the side of the road.  We chose the latter.  Periodically throughout the night a semi would drive by and we would wake up in a panic thinking we were going to be run over.  In the morning we continued on, stopping in Radium Hot Springs to pick up some last minute supplies.  We got to the trail head and exploded our duffels and packed our backpacks for the hike that was only a few miles but also gained a few thousand feet in that distance.  Our packs weren't large enough for all our gear so we were looking pretty gumby hiking up with half our stuff strapped to the outside of our packs.  We got to camp and started scheming about what to do tomorrow.
The forecast for Sunday called for weather in the afternoon. So we left camp at 04:45.  Two and a half hours later we were on top of Crescent Spire having climbed McTech Arete.  We descended Crescent Spire's West Ridge route until we were under Bugaboos Spires NE Ridge.  We were on top of Bugaboo Spire at 10:30 and back at Applebee Dome camp at 12:30.  Having not climbed in awhile and wanting to make the most of the good weather, we were bummed that we hadn't brought wide gear with us so we could have climbed Sunshine Crack on Snowpatch Spire after descending the Kain route.  We consoled our selves with the fact that the weather on Monday looked awesome.
Monday morning dawned to rain.  Solid rain till noon.  Our main objective while in the Bugaboos was 'All Along the Watchtower' on North Howser.  We decided that morning in the rain to stop screwing around at Applebee Dome and head over to East Creek so we would be set to have a go at North Howser.  When the rain stopped at noon we packed up our climbing gear, wet tent, and some food and headed to East Creek.  At the East Creek camp we met a crew of 6 from Colorado that had gotten a helicopter ride into camp.  Talk about a plush camp! They had it all from coolers of food to a propane tank.
We woke on Tuesday morning at 02:30 to a star filled sky.  We were walking out of camp at 03:15 and were probably off route twenty minutes later.  Luckily we recognized our mistake and corrected our course without loosing too much time.  The rappels down to the base of the West face of North Howser went smoothly and we were soon on a small chopped snow ledge with crampons on and axes out, standing above a big black drop off.  Luckily, back in Durango when Matt had said he wasn't going to bring an axe with him to Canada I not only brought mine, but one for him as well.  The snow was steep enough and hard enough that we did a couple rappels while traversing over to the base of the route.  Once on the rock things went smoothly up to pitch 7 where we once again got off route.  For some reason I decided to traverse left two pitches early.  To get back on route we had down climb 150' feet and do a 200' rappel.  Then again we got a little off on top of pitch 11.  When, thanks to my route finding I directed Matt to the wrong crack.  He belayed and I lead past him 20' to his left on the correct crack and he was able to pendulum back on route while seconding the pitch.  Even with the glitches in route finding we made good time up to the base of the dihedral with all the simul-climbing we were doing.  We started to get tired when the pitches started to get harder in the dihedral.  The pitches were great fun but were getting harder and harder to onsight as we went higher.  I aided the crux roof and Matt french freed the last dihedral pitch.
I lead the whole summit ridge to the top in one huge simul-climbing pitch.  We topped out at 19:15, ate a bar and headed down to find the descent route.  We didn't like what we saw when we were walking from Applebee Dome to East Creek.  The bergschrund looked sketchy to say the least.  As often happens in the mountains things look scarier from a distance.  The rappels to the glacier went super smoothly and the glacier was less steep and less sketch than it had looked from afar.  We were back at East Creek camp at 21:45.  18.5 hours camp to camp.
Wednesday was a well deserved rest day.  When packing up food to move to East Creek from Applebee Dome we decided that we wouldn't need much food on the planned rest day because we wouldn't be doing anything.  It made sense at the time but what we didn't think about was the fact that our bodies would be trying to recover from 'All Along the Watchtower'.  So as we were in our sleeping bags on Wednesday night shivering because our bodies didn't have enough calories to stay warm.  We heard someone from the helicopter crew say, "Man! We have so much food we're going to have to fly out with a bunch!".  At that Matt jumped out of his sleeping bag and hiked up the hill to beg for some food.  Thanks to the kindness of our fellow Colorado peeps, he came back with a gold mine!  Franks and beans, Gumbo soup, chocolate, and oatmeal creme pies!  We stuffed ourselves and slept nice and warm.
Thursday's weather didn't look that great but we decided that we better climb the mega classic 'Beckey-Chinouard' route while we were camped right under it.  We were standing on top 4.5hrs after leaving camp and were back at the Howser-Pigeon Col before noon.  It had snowed some on top of South Howser and the weather didn't look great but we decided it was too early to quit. So we headed off to go climb the 'Cooper-Kor' route on Pigeon Spire.  Matt and I were both a little hangry but we ate nothing and continued.  Twenty minutes later a misunderstanding about which side of a crevasse to travel on turned to yelling.  It's amazing what a few calories will do.
The 'Cooper-Kor' ended up being less than stellar and we got hit by a sleet storm on the summit.  But we made it back to camp at 17:25 cold, wet, tired and satisfied with a big day.
Friday-Monday was forecasted to be crap weather with everything clearing up again by Tuesday.  So on Friday morning we headed out to the car to rest and prepare to come back in to the Bugs for one last climb on Tuesday or Wednesday.  During the next week of rain we drove to Calgary to try and fly out early.  Failing to fly out early we grudgingly spent a few rainy afternoons climbing at Grassi Lakes near Banff, and Behind the Lake at Lake Louise.  They were great climbing areas but were hard to enjoy when we were spoiled by and dreaming of the Bugaboos.  Unfortunately the weather never cleared and we flew out that next Thursday.
I sure am glad we went big on the good weather days we had in the Bugs.  You never know when it will turn to crappy weather.  Below is a short video from our time in Canada.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Noname Basin

I was able to get out and guide a little bit at the end of June.  Tim has been coming out for years and we always have a great time.  As he had done last year, he was bringing along 3 friend so I brought along Bill.  The plan always starts out big.  Like we are going to climb everything in the area in 2 days big.  Usually it might get pared down a little bit, but this year it go pared down a bunch.  Luckily it was still and great trip.  We hiked up Noname Basin and set up camp at around 10,900'.  Just before dark Rodger yells, "a marmot stole my boot!" Sure enough.  We spent the next thirty minutes searching the area with headlamps until Bill finally spotted it halfway down Marmot hole.  Luckily it was still functional.
Looking up Noname toward Knife Point and Jagged
The next morning we hiked up to Jagged Pass and decided to change plans and climb Leviathan instead of Jagged.  Then ontop of Leviathan, we decided we might as well climb Vallecito Peak too.
Although we bailed on our primary objective of Jagged, we still got two great peaks and had a great time.  Jared had been struggling with blisters since day one, so on day three I took him out while everyone else climbed Knife Point.
Short break before the last mile to camp.
As usual, it's hard to have a bad trip in the mountains when you are with great people!

Popes Nose

This spring was rough.  There were too many planned climbing trips that got cancelled last minute because of weather to count.  So when there was a weather window I did everything I could to make sure I got out.  Ryan and I were originally going to hike in and climb Grand Gulch Spire but the forecast was for 100+ degree days in the desert.  So instead, we decided on a more alpine objective.  We left the trail head for the Popes Nose in the late afternoon.  We made good time and 13 miles later were at our little campsite just before dark.  It was fun to hike past Flag Mountain Falls again.  The last time I had been up that direction was when Eric and I climbed it in the spring of 2014.
Ryan following low on the route.
The next morning we got an early start and started up the Central Buttress.  We were climbing the last pitch to the summit when the sun finally swung around and started to cook the Central Buttress.
Ryan leading.
Luckily the heinous descent gully turned out to be pretty mellow.  By the time we got back to Flint creek the icy waters from the night before had transformed into nothing more than refreshing.
Crossing Flint Creek
The last few miles of the hike out were nothing short of brutal.  Between 26 miles of hiking and 1000' of climbing our feet were beat!  Flip flops have never felt better!


Amanda had a break from PA(Physician's Assistant) school in the end of May and we were able to get away to SoCal for a bit.  Before I showed up, she spent the weekend at a festival called 'Lightning in a Bottle', and then picked me up at LAX when I flew in.  The Brandewie Family drove down from  Three Rivers and camped with us at a campground in Malibu State Park.  It was great fun to see how fast Owen and Maya are growing up!  And as always it was great to hangout with Koren and Brad.
Maya, Owen, Koren, Brad
Amanda and I were able to go climbing for a couple hours, and go to a museum called the Getty Villa.
 Brad, Amanda and I went out one morning on the Pacific to fish for Rock Fish.  Since we we didn't have a freezer, Amanda and I gave most of our fish to Brad to take home.  We did keep a little that we fried up on our camp stove that night.  Delicious!

 Amanda got to go surfing a few days and obviously had a great time.  (Side note, she had bought an old board a couple years ago that she didn't love.  Recently however she upgraded by trading her board for something that will work better for her.  I'm excited for her to get out and try it!)

After Malibu we drove down to Costa Mesa and stayed at a friends house.  Amanda got to surf again, we did some road riding, and took some long walks on the beach.  On the Drive back to Phoenix we detoured down to San Diego to visit Stephanie, Hannah, Louise, and Max.  It had been way too long since seeing them!
The real highlight of the trip though, was getting to hang out with Amanda.  Hopefully in another year that'll be way more common!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fine Jade

About a month ago Matt and I  drove out to the desert for the day to climb 'Fine Jade' on 'The Rectory' in Castle Valley.  Good day climbing with a great buddy!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Weaver's Needle

I'd been wanting to check out the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix since Amanda started school in the area last June.  It was obviously way too warm for the first few months she was there but the temps in mid January were perfect!  I left the car at 9:30am passing a constant stream of elderly hiking groups.  Without fail every group I would pass, the person in the back would yell, "Youngster coming through!" to the rest of the group.  Funny, and yet pretty effective for clearing the trail!
Weaver's Needle
I took the wrong trail hiking up to Weaver's Needle and ended up to the south of it.  Then I got cut off from the base of the route by a cliff that ran out from the base of the needle.  So I started climbing up thinking I would traverse into the route higher up.  Well the cliff just got bigger and I ended up on top of the very loose south summit.  I tried to get over to the north summit at the notch but my way was blocked.  After looking and looking I down climbed back to the base and walked down and around the original cliff that had thrown me off.
Crazy cool rock feature thing.
Now on the standard route things went more smoothly.  It took only 12 minutes to solo from the base of the route to the top of the pinnacle, and 14 to down climb the route.  I found the trail on the way down which fortunately lacked the thorn bushes and loose rock I had encountered on my off trail approach.  I was back at the car at 2:45pm thankful to have not hauled a bunch of climbing gear all that way.  I can't wait to check out more of the Superstitions!
On top!

San Juan Ice Link Up

For a few years Matt and I had been talking about doing a link up of Bridalveil Falls, Bird Brain Boulavard, and Ames Ice Hose.  This winter during the Ouray Ice Festival we decided we were going to make it happen.  We were talking to the late great Mark Miller about it and he said, "Well you might as well add in The Talisman.  Adam George and Bryan Gilmore did those 4 in just under 24 hours a few years ago."  So that was the plan.  Until we were driving up to Ouray anyways.
Hiking up to The Talisman.
I got off work at 7am in Farmington, NM and drove up to Durango to meet Matt.  I jumped in his vehicle and we took off around 8:30am.  Way too late to start the day we had planned, but we had head lamps and were stoked.  We swung our first tool on Whorehouse Hoses.  Somewhere between Durango and Silverton we had decided that we needed to add Whorehouse Hoses to the link up.  We simul-climbed the whole route, finishing on the steeper right option which Matt had never been up.  Years ago, Matt was climbing the right side of the last pitch and the route fell down.  Matt and his partner were lucky to survive and considering the potential, came away relatively unscathed.
Ben on the first pitch of The Talisman.
Next up was Bird Brain Boulevard.  I hadn't climbed it in a decade and Matt had never climbed it so we thought it would be good to do it in the light.  He started off leading and stopped on top of the 5th pitch because there were people above.  We pitched out the last two pitches then passed the party before they got on the rappels.
Matt following pitch one of The Talisman.
Matt and I had just climbed The Talisman for his first time a few weeks before, so it was fresh in our minds.  I took pitch one and he linked pitches two and three.  We rappelled and got back to the car as the shadows lengthened into night.
Luckily Bill was done with guiding for the day and was home so we were able to stop by his place and refill our water bottles, sharpen our tools, and make some tea.  Thanks Bill!
Bridalveil's parking lot.
Same as Bird Brain I hadn't climbed Bridalveil in around a decade.  Out of all the routes, I was the most nervous about Bridalveil.  When I had climbed it years before the ice was super hard.  I only had two screws that were sharp enough for the hard ice.  I would place the sharp screw half way in then remove it and put a dull screw in the starter hole.  It was exhausting.  On top of that, I could only get my tools into the ice about a centimeter which was enough to get me up but surely made me over grip my tools with fear.  This time Bridalveil was much more tame and went smoothly.
On top of Bridalveil Falls.
Last but not least was Ames Ice Hose.  Both of us had climbed the route a few times before so we weren't too worried about it.  We left the road on a trail which ended up splitting multiple times.  We would go one way then turn around and try the another.  In the dark we had no idea where we were going.  Finally we just took the trail that went the steepest uphill and we got back in familiar terrain and found the route.  I linked the first two pitches.  When Matt got up to me and let his arms down he got one of the worst cases of the 'screaming barfies" he'd ever had.  As always on Ames, the last pitch seemed to go on forever.  Just as I started worrying about having enough screws I rolled over the top.  All in all it was a great day out, climbing with great company!

Rock and Ice Article

Whorehouse Hoses
Depart Car              9:45
Starting                  10
Top                        10:45
Car                        11:05
Bottom to top        45 mins
Car to car              1 hr 20 mins

Bird Brain Boulevard 
Depart Car             12:00
Starting                  12:30
Top                         14:25
Car                         15:08
Bottom to top        1 hr 55 mins
Car to car              3 hrs 8 mins

The Talisman 
Depart Car            15:27
Starting                 16:00
Top                       17:20
Car                       17:50
Bottom to top      1 hr 20 mins
Car to car            2 hrs 23 mins 

Bridalveil Falls
Depart Car           19:48
Starting                20:45
Top                       22:22
Car                       23:15
Bottom to top      1 hr 37 mins 
Car to car             3 hrs 27 mins

Ames Ice Hose 
Depart Car           23:50
Starting                12:55
Top                       3:05
Car                       4:10
Bottom to top      2 hrs 10 mins 
Car to car            4 hrs 20 mins 

3,170' of ice climbing
18 hrs 25 mins car to car
17 hrs 5 minutes bottom of Whorehouse to top of Ames.