I see the spindrift funneling down the route from above, all I can do is cinch my hood up and wait. Whooooossssshhhhhh! Everything goes white; I can’t even see my hands holding onto my ice tools. I’m right in the middle of the second pitch of the notorious and ultra classic Ames Ice Hose in Telluride. I look down at the belay and see my partner Bryce, huddled at the belay counting the minutes until I finish the pitch so he can stop freezing his butt off in a never ending spindrift shower. The snow doesn’t sting as bad when you’re moving.
Ames Ice Hose - Andrew Plagens
I first saw the Ames Ice Hose in a video of the amazing Guy Lacelle soloing it in a matter of minutes. It was the most beautiful and perfect line of ice I could imagine and better yet, it was only a short hour and a half drive away. I was at work thinking about what I wanted to climb that weekend when Bryce came in. I asked him immediately if he would be interested in trying to get on Ames that weekend. He didn’t even hesitate in saying yes, he was in for sure. Soon we were a team of three, my good friend and climbing partner Max was also very psyched to join. We would leave for Telluride on Friday night.
Max lead through the first pitch which was in fat and super steep. His lead was a proud effort. After that pitch Max came back down and told us he was done for the day. Bryce and I looked at each other and decided to go for it. We climbed through the first pitch which was much harder than it looked from the ground. At the top of the first belay Bryce handed me the rack and I continued up through the second pitch. The second pitch was narrow, steep and pretty exposed. It was definitely not a place to make mistakes. I ran the pitch as far as I could to the base of the third and final pitch, the hero pitch of fat and wide WI4. I got right to the base of it in a snow field. I didn’t have much of a rack left save one stubby. The fixed anchors were buried in snow and there was no way I could get to them. Hmmm, time to improvise. I sunk the bomber stubby in some good ice, and then I sunk both of my tools to the hilt and equalized the whole rig then called off belay. Bomber.
I brought Bryce up, put on my belay parka which was reduced to the usefulness of a wet garbage bag at this point. I settled in to belay the final pitch and take a spindrift shower. Bryce racked up and set off almost immediately. He climbed in perfect form up the most logical line in the sea of ice that was the third pitch. I couldn’t wait to follow. Once on top of the massive pitch Bryce called off belay and I got ready to follow. The pitch climbed as well as it looked. I was truly adrift in a deep blue ocean of vertical frozen water.
Once on top we tied the ropes together and rapped as far as we could. At the bottom of the third pitch we built a bomber v-thread and rapped to the group. 70 meter ropes can offer pleasant surprises every once in a while. Max was glad to see our ropes hit the ground, he knew he wouldn’t have to stand around in the cold and wait any longer.
The sun was beginning to set when we hiked out and it had snowed another 3 inches over the course of the day. We put chains on our trusty Honda and thanks to Bryce’s driving skills we were soon on dry highway headed home. Once in Montrose we stopped at the Horsefly Brewery for some celebration burgers and pints and then drove off into the night for Gunnison.