February 8, 2008

The Ames Ice Hose


Guest blogger Jared Ogden, ex-Telluride resident and longtime supporter of Mountainfilm, has climbed all over the world. He is currently planning his next super-top-secret expedition.Back in 1976 ice climbing was going through quantum leaps in advancement of style, difficulty, and equipment and three climbers from Colorado, Michael Kennedy, Steve Shea and Lou Dawson, were leading the charge with their first ascent of the Ames Ice Hose. The 600-foot route, located on the Ames Wall near Telluride, CO, rarely forms up with enough ice to climb it and is notorious for having a very thin if not ethereal first pitch. The three climbers forged through storming conditions and thin ice but were turned back after climbing two pitches in the face of nightfall. They were forced to rappel but left their ropes in place and spent a cold night in a cabin in nearby Ophir only to return the next morning to find their ropes encased in ice. Kennedy, who was first to scale back up the ropes to their highpoint remembers it being “more frightening than leading them.”Picking their way up delicate ice they made slow but steady progress through the second day and found the final headwall to be one of the best stretches of ice they had climbed. “We knew it would become a classic.” Kennedy recalls of their first ascent. It was turning out to be a milestone in the development of ice climbing in Colorado and their perseverance paid off.They topped out on their second day in the dark and made a fire to stay warm till morning when they rappelled the route. In the 29 years since they climbed the Ames Ice Hose the route hasn’t changed much and if you’re looking for a classic multi-pitch ice climbing adventure then this is a sure bet.


Climbing the Ames Ice Hose

Having lived in the area for 15 years I’ve climbed the Ames Ice Hose over twenty times in every imaginable condition. I’ve had to rap off mid route in full blown storms, been nearly benighted, simul-climbed it, linked it up with other routes in a day, been scared shitless, run-out, bombarded by ice chunks falling from other climbers above me, climbed it in thick and thin conditions, and climbed it under perfectly clear skies without a hitch.The first pitch (100-ft) of the climb is almost guaranteed to be the hardest part. Vertical thin ice that can be difficult to protect with ice screws, depending on the thickness of the ice, leads to a short lower angled ramp and a belay below the narrow chimney. Continuing up the narrow strip of ice into the chimney can also be strenuous however I’ve climbed this part when the ice was ten feet thick. If it’s thin it’ll be more difficult to protect but you can get some cams, stoppers, or perhaps a piton in the rock for safe passage. This second pitch (100ft) is a favorite among climbers for it’s aesthetics, exposure, and quality. The final two pitches (300-feet) follow the headwall up thick blue ice to the forest at the top of the cliff. The Ophir Wall and Needle tower over the Illium valley and makes a picturesque backdrop to this all time classic ice climb.Posted by Jared Ogden