Rifle and Other Ice Conditions 2-3-15

“Where are you ice climbing?”

I’ve heard that question countless times in the past few weeks. With sunny days temperatures that remind people of spring break in the mountains, it was a warm and dry January. But, the ice is still there and in many cases is doing great.

Here’s a quick look at conditions in our area. As usual, give us a call at 970-319-0656 if we can help you out with some ice climbing.

Soul On Ice, January 29, 2015

Soul On Ice, January 29, 2015, in Rifle Mountain Park. The top of this climb has struggled to really take good form.

Lone Tree (aka Upper Ice Cave), January 29, 2015

Lone Tree (aka Upper Ice Cave), January 29, 2015, in Rifle Mountain Park. It’s been hanging in there and seems to be in a day-to-day condition where it may just depend on how cold it was the day or two before as well as how much sun it is getting.

The Final Curtain, January 29, 2015

The Final Curtain, January 29, 2015, in Rifle Mountain Park. The main portion of the Final Curtain has been doing great. The Pleasure Pillar, on the far right, has struggled with sunny days but has been climbed at times. Again, it is more of a day-to-day call on what kind of climbable shape it’s going to be in.

Elsewhere in our area:

Redstone: Hayes (out), Avocado Gully (in), Redstone Pillar (in), The Drool (in but thin). Much of Redstone has struggled with the warm weather of late, particularly if it gets direct sun but there is plenty to do that stays sheltered and stuff like Tomato Chimney looks great. Avocado has been doing wonderful and is in great shape right now although it is in typical thin form. Check out a look at Avocado through January here.

In the Glenwood area, Hidden Falls is reportedly in the worst shape ever for January although it has been getting climbed.

Avocado Gully, February 2, 2015

Avocado Gully, February 2, 2015. In great shape but thin on the crux pitch.

Posted in Glenwood Canyon, Ice Climbing, Ice Conditions, Redstone, Rifle | Leave a comment

The Life of an Ice Climb – Avocado Gully

Climbing into the dark on Avocado Gully

Climbing into the dark on Avocado Gully

Ice climbing can be a fickle sport. A lot of climbs take the right mix of moisture and cold temperatures to reliably form. When it works out, it can be incredibly fun.

One of my favorite local climbs is Avocado Gully, a climb I’ve done dozens and dozens of times. Unlike the reliable conditions in Rifle Mountain Park, Avocado is a climb that is more demanding for the right mix of proper conditions to come into good shape.

Many locals discuss what it is that makes Avocado happen and this year I’ve had the opportunity to climb Avocado three weeks in a row and experience firsthand. Hence, here’s a look at what’s happened in the past three weeks with weather, snowfall and the condition of the climb. At the bottom you can see a look at the month’s temperatures and snowfall.

On January 7 we were just warming up after a long spell of cold temperatures during the holiday season. Consequently, Avocado started to get climbed around the start of the new year. On the 7th, it was in fairly typical thin shape and somewhat heady with “airy” ice and far from being fat and fully formed. I had people predicting that the warm temperatures, close to 50 degrees for a high in Glenwood, would leave Avocado a stream within days.

January 7

January 7

Instead of a stream, Avocado was in even better shape the following week. Pictured below on January 14th, the climb was dripping wet but the ice didn’t have the “airy” feel from the week prior. You can see more ice on the upper left which actually turned out to be very thin and not very useable.

January 14

January 14

Next week, the 21st, Avocado was in the best shape it’s been in all year. The day was cold so the climb wasn’t wet at all. The warm temperatures from the weekend before seemed to only help it grow and the ice was solid and well formed.

January 21

January 21

January temperatures in Redstone.

January temperatures in Redstone. From AccuWeather.

Snowfall at Sunlight Mountain. Amount in centimeters.

Snowfall at Sunlight Mountain. Amount in centimeters. From OnTheSnow.com

In conclusion, it’s interesting to see how snowfall and temperatures can affect a climb. In the case of Avocado, it’s been the view of many locals that it needs snowfall with relatively warm temperatures to create adequate snowmelt to create good ice growth. This year, we are lacking on the snowfall but our warm temperatures have at least been good to generate some growth out of the little bit of snowfall we’ve had. That was certainly evident on the 21st when you could literally see where the ice had formed out of the snow.

As usual, have fun and be safe out there! And, let us know if we can help, 970-319-0656.

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The stunning headwall on Tricks of the Trade. Zion National Park, Utah.

The stunning headwall on Tricks of the Trade. Zion National Park, Utah.

This piece originally appeared in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

I paused and pushed my hands into the wet, muddy ground and lifted my head as high as I could. I strained my neck in all directions, looking for a path.

I was surrounded by prickly pears, and all I could see was more of the same.

Looking back uphill, I realized I had taken a wrong turn off the faint climber’s trail, but desperately wanted to avoid retracing my steps with over a mile remaining to the car.

Steps might be the wrong word. I was relegated to crawling, my broken leg gingerly dragging behind me, splinted in a repurposed foam sleeping mat.

One thousand feet up a vertical, towering wall of sandstone in Zion National Park in Utah, I ignored everything I knew about climbing wet sandstone — and paid the price for it. It had only been a light rain and I was on easy terrain. Still, the fragile sandstone holds gave way, and I struck a ledge before my rope could stop my fall, snapping my tibia at the ankle.

Ten years later this past February, the memories of that day returned in a rush of emotion as I scrambled up to the base of the accident after a full day of climbing with my friend Steve. I carefully climbed on to the ledge that my leg made contact with and gently caressed the holds that still remain.

I found the broken holds from which my body succumbed to gravity and took a picture, as if someday I’ll forget why I have two metal screws in my leg and instead can look at these two broken holds.

Walking In to Isaac and the Court of the Patriarchs

Walking In to Isaac and the Court of the Patriarchs. The lower half of Isaac is seen in the upper right of the photo. Abraham is the large peak straight ahead.

Steve and I had methodically climbed the 1,000 feet that day with little incident. Even though I was physically stronger and more bold in my youth a decade earlier, the climbing on that day felt easier than I could have imagined.

In the thousands of days and nights since the accident, I had dreamed about my return with some trepidation about what it might hold. Instead, the climbing that day reminded me of the maturity I have earned as an older climber. It is fitting that the climb is named Tricks of the Trade.

The night after our ascent, we crawled into our sleeping bags which were splayed out on a wide, sandy ledge, and watched as the sun’s warm rays were replaced by the cold light of the moon on the canyon walls.

Bivy site

The bivy site in the large, terraced ledge halfway up Isaac.

For years, I had attempted to go back and seek some form of redemption on this climb. Weather, seasonal bird closures and the busy schedule of life seemed to endlessly get in the way.

I started to wonder if it really mattered to return to this climb. What is redemption worth for the selfish soul who seeks it? Now I’m married to someone who was one of my climbing partners on that fateful climb, and I’ve enjoyed the love and excitement brought by a life together and the three children we brought into this world.

Instead of contentment with my life, however, I’ve remained restless about the need to establish goals and to seek out adventure. This climb was my redemption.

Tucked into my sleeping bag, donning a Denney’s Demons T-shirt, laying next to a close friend and favorite climbing partner, I am reminded about why I seeked out this redemption. Climbing this route would not cure Craig Denney’s cancer or make my kids love me more, but I felt that my heart would be a little bigger and that I’d be a little more complete as a man. I felt that if I stopped seeking out challenges and goals that life would get stale and I’d be left with regret.

The next day, Steve and I got to stand on top of the massive formation for the first time. It feels like we’re floating up the rock — high above the canyon floor — and I can’t help but break out in a huge, joyous smile.



When we returned to our cliffside camp, halfway done with our descent, we realized we could make it down in time for burgers and beers at a local restaurant in the tourist-friendly town of Springdale. Instead, we easily opt to settle down in our sandstone seats and enjoy the views and each other’s company, unhindered by technology and the urban life.

It’s was a stark reminder of why we come to these places and seek out these challenges. We can go down to a restaurant any day of the week, but it’s rare you can watch the sun set over the jagged ridgelines of the desert.

On the last day, we glided down our ropes on rappel. On the ground, we pulled them down from the anchors above one final time.

I began to feel a slight sense of redemption. The last time I was in this position, after the final rappel, I was readying myself for a long crawl to the car. Then, anxious to get a head start on my able-bodied and uninjured partners, I crawled off alone on the trail. It was some time later that I found myself stuck in that cactus patch, feeling alone, angry and frustrated.

This time, with Steve, the words bounced off our lips as we bound down the trail and energetically talked about the climb. I even twisted my head around and peered behind bushes, looking for that stupid cactus patch, but it’s nowhere to be seen.

And so it should be, because I know I came here to put some things behind me and to look ahead to the next adventure in life.

Starting up the headwall

Steve cleans the lone aid pitch on Tricks of the Trade, low on the upper headwall.

Mike Schneiter is the owner of Glenwood Climbing Guides and can be reached via email or phone, 970-319-0656 .

Posted in Big Wall Climbing, Stories, Trad Climbing, Zion National Park | Leave a comment

Rifle Ice Conditions 1-10-15

Ice season is in full effect on the Western Slope of Colorado.

Avocado Gully at night.

Avocado Gully at night.

The past week brought warm temperatures in the 40s in the valley, causing some damage on certain climbs around the area. But, most climbs are in great shape and many may have benefited from the temperatures with the help of some snow melt.

Rifle is in good shape but we’re still anxiously waiting for Soul On Ice and Stone Free to come into shape. It’s been cold enough in the canyon

The Final Curtain in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15.

The Final Curtain in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15. The main Final Curtain is doing great and there a wide variety of lines from WI3 to 5 to play on.

Stone Free and Ice Palace in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15

Stone Free and Ice Palace in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15

Soul On Ice in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15

Soul On Ice in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15

Lone Tree (aka Upper Ice Cave) in Rifle Mountain Park, CO on 1-10-15.

Elsewhere, things around Redstone and Glenwood Canyon are looking good. After a long wait, many Redstone climbs are coming in fat, such as the Redstone Pillar. Avocado Gully has been getting a good amount of traffic even though the crux second pithch is in sorta thin.

Avocado Gully on 1-7-15.

Avocado Gully on 1-7-15.




As always, let us know (970-319-0656) if you want to get out on the ice. Happy climbing!

Ice Is Cool

Ice Is Cool

Posted in Ice Climbing, Ice Conditions, Rifle, Roaring Fork Valley | Leave a comment

Local Ice Conditions 1-5-15

2015 is here and so is the local ice.

Glenwood Falls Far Right Side

Glenwood Falls Far Right Side on New Years Day

After a warm spell in mid-December that seriously hampered our local ice, the holiday season brought a long period cold weather that has been fabulous for the ice. Hence, there is ice to climb all around.

Here’s a brief look at local conditions, sans pictures:

Rifle: Final Curtain is in with the Pleasure Pillar filling in nicely. Soul On Ice is close to being in. The Upper Ice Cave (aka Lone Tree Wall) is also forming well.

Glenwood Canyon: Glenwood Falls and Hidden Falls is in. Mystery Falls looks to still be forming.

Redstone: Things have been changing quickly in Redstone. A number of things are now in, such as Hayes Creek and Redstone Pillar. Some climbs are in but thin like Avocado Gully. A lot of the mixed stuff in Coal Creek is coming into shape while some of the climbs there are still devoid of ice. The Drool’s first pitch is still forming but the second pitch is very doable. Basically, there is ample ice to climb in Redstone.

Glenwood Falls 1-3-15

Glenwood Falls on 1-3-15 with a climber about halfway up. Be careful on this thing if you’re going to climb it mid-day. It’s famous for shedding ice and hurting climbers when the sun hits it!

As always, give us a call at 970-319-0656 if you want to get out on the ice. Happy climbing!

Getting started young

Getting started young


Posted in Glenwood Canyon, Ice Climbing, Ice Conditions, Redstone, Rifle, Roaring Fork Valley | Leave a comment

Rifle Ice Conditions 12-21-14

Rifle ice is back!

The Final Curtain

A steep line on The Final Curtain

After an excellent, early start to the ice climbing season in Rifle, a long period of warm, sunny weather put an end to things. But, just in time for Christmas, cold weather has returned and with it, good conditions in the Park that will only get better.

Here’s a quick look at what’s going on at Rifle Mountain Park for conditions. The forecast over the next week looks good and cold for continuing growth of the ice.

Get out there and, as always, give us a call at 970-319-0656 for a guided day or personal instruction.

The Final Curtain, 12-20-14

The Final Curtain, 12-20-14. The Pleasure Pillar (far right) still has a ways to go but cold, cloudy weather should help. The main Final Curtain area offers a number of good lines currently. The middle is as close to WI3 as it will probably get and has good solid ice in the bottom before getting thin at the top. You can escape out left to a different anchor for a safer way to top it out. The far left pillar is in good, solid condition. As is often the case in Rifle, use caution on the topouts as in their current condition they may feature ice that is not firmly secured or may lack ice completely. 

Soul On Ice

A brief, roadside look at Soul On Ice on 12-20-14. The warm weather took away most of this climb but cold weather will help it form again quickly. Besides the Final Curtain, everything else in the Canyon is in an similar condition. 

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Monday Movie – People Are Awesome

People are awesome and this video highlights some awesome stuff people do. Have a great Monday and I hope you do something awesome!

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Monday Movie – Patagonia Promise

We’ve been super busy here with climbing! Spring is in the air and the rock has been calling along with a ton of people who are psyched to climb. Now, a return to the Monday Movie, with a thoughtful, inspiring look at putting up a first ascent in Patagonia and remembering a loved one who has been lost. Recently Sean Leary died in a BASE jumping accident but a few years ago he lost the love of his life and here’s a look at that experience. Enjoy and remember to hug your loved ones today.

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Monday Movie – 35

This week is my birthday so while this video inspires me at any time of the year, it is particularly inspiring this week. Enjoy and get out there.

My favorite line: “We all have dreams. But they don’t mean much if we don’t act on them. If we put them in a drawer labeled someday.”

35 from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.


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Picture of the Week – Holier Than Thou

It’s desert season and I’m anxiously flipping through guidebooks to prepare for an upcoming Moab trip to climb some towers.

Here is Holier Than Thou, a classic face climb on The Nuns in Castle Valley, Utah.

Holier Than Thou on The Nuns, Castle Valley, Utah.

Holier Than Thou on The Nuns, Castle Valley, Utah.

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