One benefit of the 2013 flood: fat ice in the mountains!
Word got around quickly here on the Front Range. Local superhero Topher Donahue was ahead of the curve on September 30th, hiking up to Long’s Peak to nab an early season ascent of the Smear of Fear. In a blog post, he lamented the fact that, adding insult to the injury of the flood, the Government Shutdown would prevent climbers from enjoying the one benefit of our historically wet season.
Some daring climbers ran the blockade and climbed anyway, but rumors quickly spread of aggressive rangers camped out on the trail, looking to bust climbers. In addition to the normal risks of winter climbing, the prospect of Federal trespassing charges dissuaded most.
So, when the Colorado state government put up the cash ($40k/day!!) to reopen the park, Front Range ice climbers quickly sharpened their tools.
Yesterday, Rob Coppolillo and I hiked up to climb the Smear. One of the most ephemeral, and notorious, ice climbs on the Front Range, the Smear follows a thin ribbon of ice plastered to blank granite on the Lower East Face of Long’s Peak.
We managed to climb the first three pitches, including the crux WI5 R pitches, but bailed below the final WI4 pitch as darkness encroached. The leads were at the limit of my comfort zone, with the ice often too thin to accept screws. That, combined with our leisurely late start, left us hiking out in the dark.