Thursday, May 9, 2013

Telluride Via Ferrata...Spring Conditions

What: "Krogerata" or Via Ferrata built by Chuck Kroger
Where: East end of Telluride, CO, under Ajax Mountain (the mountain above...you traverse across)
When: May 3rd, 2013
Who: Dumb (Brad Hardin) and Dumber (me)
As mentioned in the previous trip report...we drove overnight to Telluride. It took us right under 15 hours straight. As soon as we arrived in town, we parked at the base of the switchbacks, ate a quick breakfast, and started making our way up the switchbacks. After a couple of switchbacks, you come face to face with Colorado's tallest waterfall, Bridal Veil Falls. You see the falls from below, but you don't realize how big or tall it is until you stand under it. We parked at just over 9000' and hiked up 800' to the base of the waterfall. Honestly, I wasn't expecting the waterfall to be this frozen. You can't see the waterfall from any of the town's webcams...so when we first saw it frozen, it was a truly sweet surprise.
(I'm in this picture...can you spot me?)
Sarah and I completed the Krogerata last Summer (You can see this report here: http://seekingtheburningbush.blogspot.com/2012/07/telluride-bouldering-via-ferrata-hiking.html ) so I didn't feel it was necessary to document this trip on this blog again...But obviously, my thoughts changed when it took Dumb and Dumber 6 hours to complete the Via Ferrata this time around. We completely underestimated this route in Spring Conditions. I will be the first to admit we were not prepared, probably did not have the right equipment, and more importantly...was overconfident about the route, especially since I thought I "knew" the route from before.
For starters, Brad and I could not find any trip reports for this route in Winter or Spring Conditions. We quickly learned why...there is snow and ice throughout the route this time of year. Being the idiot I am...I was looking at the mountain via webcam thinking, "hey...there's snow up top...but route looks dry." Spoke to gear shop guys in town, all they warned me about was sluff avalanches above...So with the little information I had, I made a big decision to attempt the route without much current beta. As you see in the picture above...Brad and I had to become creative all morning long. We rigged and McGyvered so many anchors to safely cross snow and ice. And why did we have to anchor off so many times you ask??? Because your favorite buffoons did not have their crampons or ice axes to traverse over the ice. Instead, our go to gear was left in the car because "we thought" we didn't need them. Note to self...anytime you are traveling in the Mountains, in the Spring, in Alpine environment...bring appropriate gear...you know better...dummy.
So anyways...the route is only 1/2 a mile across...but the trail is a technical trail that is narrow to extremely narrow. Hence, the cable that protects you from a several hundred foot fall.
When I traversed this in the Summer...I didn't remember one waterfall on this route. On this day...we encountered several. On the one above...Brad delicately made his way across. Now, Sarah and Amy...what you don't see in the picture above is rope. The reason you don't see one is because I edited the rope out of the picture for dramatic effect...mmm...ok, you probably know that's a fib. There is no rope because there was no place to anchor on a few of these crossings. What we did have on us are one pair of Yaktrax microspikes that saved the day for us...it just had enough "grip" for us to make our way across. And trust me...I wanted to turnaround, but Brad peer pressured me into finishing. He was getting angry at me. He scared me.
(This is one of my favorite shots of the weekend...Brad looking at Bridal Veil Falls from Krogerata.)
So here I am...on sketchy ice. For those of you wanting to attempt this route, this is what you will encounter over and over again. So bring ice axe, good set of microspikes and crampons for later on in the route. Again, this day was difficult for us...but if you have appropriate gear, it can also be a very pleasant day.
This is Brad on ice...Same waterfall as previous picture from other side.
I believe this is the widest part of the unprotected route...there is loose rock on this trail, so you want to pay attention to each step you take.
Here I am goofing off...but more importantly, this is the bench or the "real start" of the via ferrata. It's at this point (Halfway across) that many of us are attracted to this traverse. After taking a break, signing the register...
...and paying homage to the builder of this incredible, fun, must do route...
...Chuck Kroger...
...it was time to have some real fun! This next section is not too long, but not too short. It's perfect!
(Brad on Via Ferrata)
 As mentioned in previous trip report...when you are traversing this section...it's all exposure. You are some 400-500' above...true "airy" traverse. But the cable is bombproof, and as long as you are clipped in...you feel super secure. That is, if you do ok with heights.
After the exhilarating, exposed section...I thought we were done with ice. I was wrong. It got worse. At this waterfall above, we were dealing with flowing water, ice fall, sluff from above, and of course the solid ice on the ground. Fortunately for us...there was a hangar we used to anchor in on and belay right next to this waterfall...it allowed us to traverse it relatively safely (Brad did an impressive self belay). However...in the process of moving across it, I was completely soaked by freezing water. Head, body, and feet were soaked. I essentially went swimming in freezing water...it sucked. I also wasn't wearing a rain jacket...or any waterproof clothes.
Brad on the other hand...was. It's probably the only thing that went right for us this morning.
After getting through the (finally) last waterfall...we were back on cables. There are a few more exposed sections like seen above on the rest of the route.
Towards the end of the cable...there is one last section that is overhung...not anything too difficult, but probably good to have monkey bar strength to get through it with no problems.

This is where I was done taking pictures...not because the trail is over, but because we were tired. There were several snow filled gullies of 35-45 slope that completely covered many parts of the trail on the way down. Brad and I, once again, would get creative with anchor setting to get across safely. We even used sketchy roots to anchor in on...But once again, if we had our axe...there would have been absolutely no problem.

In short...this 2-3 hour technical hike took us 6 hours to complete. If you want to do this hike in the Spring, it is perfectly ok...just dont be idiots like us and take appropriate gear. Though I am proud we finished and it really was a fun day...it did feel like finishing last in the sack races and still recieving a participation ribbon on Field Day. It's hard to be proud of this...but i'll take it. Fun is fun.
***These are a few of the ice climbs in Ouray...I will be back to ice climb these in January. Who is coming with me?**** 

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up. Sometimes the best trips are the ones that don't go according to plan. I'll climb the ice with you! Mike

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