Monday, March 16, 2009


With all the warm weather I thought I was done with ice climbing for the season, and was happy to quit while I was ahead, having made it unscathed, just with swollen knuckles, through a season with over 120 pitches, many difficult leads and some awesome alpine adventures. If you are interested there is a complete list of my climbs here. But, all it took was a phone call from Tom Kavanaugh and a check of the weather report and I was off to face the Rigid Designator for a second time this season.
The Rigid Designator Amphitheater (RDA) is just west of the I-70 East Vail exit up in the cliff band on the south side. The amphitheater walls are 120 feet high and it is an absolutely spectacular place, summer and winter, to be experienced by climbers and the vertically challenged alike. And, the parking lot at the nordic center has a heated bathroom (read: luxury bivy) for the dirt bag ice climber looking to beat the crowd. The RDA has long and difficult mixed routes to ice curtains floating in space and several imposing columns of ice that make your teeth chatter. You can learn more about the climbs in this area here.

Me on lead -- Rigid Designator WI4, Vail CO

I met Eric Malmgren from Copper Mountain who put up Red Bull with Vodka last year. Its, two pitches, M8+, immediately behind the Fang and to the left of Amphibian. Eric took a ride to the top of the Fang on our top rope, set a fixed line and did about half a dozen laps rope solo. I let Eric try out my Ushba, a Russian made device that we both agree is probably superior to anything else on the market, for rope solo on a fixed line, because it doesn't have any teeth to chew up the rope sheath. Eric said that the local doods climb at the RDA year around and in the summer with rock shoes and either with of without picks. He also said that the waterfalls have the greatest flow around the end of May. Climb on Eric, see you soon.

EPILOGUE -- On March 21st Chris Boratenski fell 70 feet while on TR on the RD. I believe he ran his top rope through the existing webbing anchor. PLEASE do not use existing anchors, for TR or belaying a second, that are buried beneath the snow making it impossible to inspect them thoroughly. Use your own double redundant cordelette with your rope through two locking biners for the anchor. If you are rapping from an existing anchor you must back it up with your own gear for the first (heaviest) guy. The RD and the Fang both have large trees 20 feet back from the lip to anchor.

No comments: