February, '05



Climbing the Ames Ice Hose

with Steve and John




    Last week I got to tag along with Steve and John who had been planning a trip up the Ames Ice Hose for a couple months.  I was extremely pleased to have been invited as this is one of the very best climbs in the San Juans. It is also a difficult route that I would not feel comfortable leading.

    It's easy to see why this is one of the area classics.  Each of the three pitches is absorbingly different and the three combine to make an incredible outing.  It was the first time on the route for all of us and we had a wonderful time.  In fact, now that I've had a week or so to think about it, this is the best ice route that I've ever climbed.

Thanks guys!


Gearing up in the parking lot.



The approach trail lies along an old railroad line. This had been a busy season for this route as evidenced by the packed trail to it's base.


Our first view of the climb.



The slope to get up to the base was steep enough to give my lungs a workout.

Steve and John at the base of the route.


Here is a large vertical panoramic of the route.

John assessing the thin ice covering the beginning of the first pitch.

The first 35 feet of the route are steep. It's a rude warm up pitch for whoever takes the first lead.


Placing a 13cm screw in a blob of ice.

Looking down the approach slope at the base of the climb.

Nearing the end of the steep climbing on the first pitch.

A slightly altered exposure showing John on the first pitch and the valley and the Ophir Wall massif in the background.


The rock quality in this area seems to be quite a bit better than most of what I have seen in the San Juans. I looked but did not see any evidence of rock routes.

Over the bulge and into easier terrain.

This is a large picture of John nearing the end of the first pitch.


John finding some protection in the form of an ice axe for the moves to the anchor.


The first belay, a rock anchor off to the left which required a spicy little traverse move on polished rock.

A shot of me waiting for my toprope to pull tight.  :)  I'm sure I had a very different experience on this route than the two leaders.

Belay changeover at the base of the second pitch.

Steve getting his other leash less axe off his harness for the second pitch. Both John and Steve climbed with leash less axes.

Beginning one amazing stretch of ice!

Looking up at Steve on one of the coolest ice pitches in the country.

This pitch forced you to do moves other than the straight forward swing-swing kick-kick.


Another shot of Steve in the narrow chute.

Nearing the top of the steep part of the pitch.

Through the crux and on "easier", but no less spectacular climbing.

Looking down at me as I finish on the easier terrain at the end of the second pitch.


IF YOU STOP AT THIS ANCHOR ON YOUR WAY UP, you will be short of rope on the last pitch with 60 meter ropes. Unfortunately, if you continue past this belay on pitch two with 60meter ropes, you run out of rope directly below the last pitch where ice will be falling. 70 meter ropes would make this a 'safe' three pitch route.

John leaving the second belay with the hope that rope will be long enough.

Of course it wasn't and shortly after this picture was taken we started simu-climbing.

A panoramic shot looking out across the valley from the base of the third pitch.

Steve arriving at the base of the huge sheet of WI4+ on the last pitch.

Taking a moment to enjoy the surroundings.

The last pitch is a 60 meter WI4+ flow that must be 30 feet wide the whole way up. I remember the ice being a little funky in places on this pitch.


John and me on top of the climb.


Me and Steve at the second rappel station.


The second rappel.

Look over at the Ophir Wall area from near the base of the route.

The Ames Ice Hose from across the valley.

Click Here for a slightly closer view.

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- Brad Brandewie