Colorado is quite the ideal place to be based if you are a climber. First off, there is all types of climbing here in this great Rocky Mountain state. There are thousands of mountains throughout, offering all types of mountaineering and climbing objectives to a worthy summit. Some, suited best for trail running shoes and a light pack, others overnight, wilderness, technical objectives, and everything else in between.
Beneath all the lofty heights of the state’s great peaks, and for those more interested in technical difficulty over sizeable altitude and mileage, the state is littered with rocky hillsides, outcroppings, gorges, and cliff walls. And almost as varied as the type of climbing is the type of rock to climb on: granite, gneiss, alpine granite, sandstone (Eldo Canyon sandstone; Escalante Canyon wingate; Garden of the Gods soft sandstone; etc….)and more then my limited geology can understand.
On par with all this variety is the stellar weather. 300+ days of sunshine a year, and enough climate variation that even in the dead, frozen cold of winter, within a day’s drive you can be climbing sunny warm rock somewhere. With that being said…the most important thing a Colorado climber needs to possess is a love of seasonal changes, and being willing to hunt for your preferred objective and medium. After all, Colorado is known for mountains, and skiing as well as climbing. And where those things reside, generally means a long, cold winter climbing season.
So here in Crested Butte, Colorado, where winter can easily last 8 months a year, to be a climber one must learn to embrace winter climbing. Or, have a very flexible job and put a lot of miles in of windshield time. We prefer the former, and embrace the winter climbing season. One that brings different challenges, but with it more space for reward and more opportunities for the moments of grace and beauty that the mountain environment provides us with.
Alas, it is now Mid-February, and we have every so imperceptibly crested the heart of winter’s darkness. The days are becoming slightly longer, the sun’s angle slightly higher, and the temps slightly (and I mean slightly) warmer. Spring is slowly beginning to take shape on the horizon and plans are beginning to infiltrate our minds of warm, sunny, granite rock or desert sandstone to be climbed.
However, we are in no rush to get there, as the one thing that always holds true will no doubt take effect again….change will inevitably come. In the meantime though, we will thoroughly be enjoying the depths of winter, climbing on frozen snowy peaks, watching the sun rise and fall from the sides of a mountain and taking joy in the way it’s light plays differently amongst a landscape coated with the sharpness of rock, ice, and snow, then it does with the softer, subtler colors of the warmer months.
We will continue to seek out freezing pre-dawn starts on snowy, rock strewn ridges, and will relish the joy of going to work and the challenge of sublime and quiet winter ascents of Mt Crested Butte’s ‘Guides Ridge’ Route, and more beyond. We will continue to seek out the frozen blue waterfall ice of the surrounding mountains and in the farmed ice of the Lake City and Ouray Ice Parks. Taking joy in introducing rockclimbers to the somewhat awkward but supremely focusing and enjoyable sport of ice climbing, and the feeling that comes with being half-way up a turquoise or fluorescent blue waterfall, looking down through your crampon frontpoints, and wondering how it can all be so beautiful and inspiring while also all being so intimidating and challenging.
And of course, when not searching out every nook and cranny of the surrounding mountains for that ultimate, unfound, ephemeral flow of ice to climb, or winter ridge ascent to be had, we’ll be looking for that perfect, and ever-elusive, ‘ultimate powder run’, just out of our back door in the wonderful, Crested Butte Backcountry.
-Cheers, Jayson @ CBMG