In 1973, Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss put up the hardest ice route in the world with pound in ice screws, and old bamboo shafted Chouinard ice axes. They did it all free and it still is so amazing to look back at the first ascent. Bridalveil Falls took vision from the start. At the time it was rated WI6+. In 1996, Jeff Lowe wrote,” …..There are still very few climbs of greater difficulty; the top end of the scale is now only WI7.” Now with modern gear, it comes easier, but not by much, and is still a very serious undertaking. It is still a major test piece. When it comes in fat, it usually is WI5+, and when it’s lean, it’s solid WI6 overhanging ice. Even in fat conditions, it’s still overhanging at parts. Bridalveil Falls is also on private property so it’s gone through a history of opening and closing. It just recently opened in 2008. I have wanted to get on it just in case it closes again. It sports two pitches of hard, difficult, ice with the last one being the glory WI4 pitch. Three pitches all together. The other problem is people come from all over the world to test themselves on Bridalveil so it can be a hassle to get on it.
Four hundred feet of narrow ice pillars, shrouds, and huge mushrooms hanging with daggers off of them, along with many car sized icicles hanging down like a sword. It all is at the back of the valley hanging straight off a cliff. In the summer, Bridalveil is a huge waterfall that gushes from the top. You might say it’s a tad bit intimidating.
Joe Simpson from “Touching the Void” talks about traveling to Telluride in 1999 and climbing Bridalveil Falls. Below is quoted from his book “The Beckoning Silence.”
“Climbing vertical ice cascades the size of skyscrapers requires a certain lack of imagination. It can be physically exhausting, technically extremely difficult, demanding an immense concentration and coolheaded decision making, at the same time being mind numbing frightening. It is an idiotic thing to do and therein lays the fascination. It also can be an exhilarating and absorbing experience. It is a paradox. It can be at once idiotic to the point of insanity and one of the coolest, calmest, most lucidly controlled, most vivid things you will ever do. It is so stupid as to be wonderful.”
“One year later, in 1999, Ray and I found ourselves standing beneath Bridalveil Falls peering up with cricks in our necks and wondering whether we might now have bitten off more then we could chew……Secretly I think we were both hoping it would be falling down, thus giving us an honorable excuse to run away. Unfortunately, it looked in perfect nick and we had no excuse.”
“I had been lumped with the crux middle pitch, which I examined with mounting horror, I wasn’t entirely convinced about my ability to climb overhanging cauliflower ice.”
On his first attempt, his partner got hit with icefall on lead, falling. His partner got stabbed with his ice tool and luckily fell in an ice cave, surviving. He had to be rushed to the hospital for stitches. They then jumped on other ice lines to better prepare and finally succeeded in climbing Bridalveil a few days after the incident. He spent a whole chapter explaining the climb in his book “The Beckoning Silence.”
Getting ThereIt's easy. Get to Telluride, Colorado and follow the main road until it is closed. Sign in and review if anyone else is ahead. Make the hour beautiful walk until your at the base. Watch out for avalanche danger on the approach as there is some!
Conditions change from year to year but usually the left side is WI6 and the right side WI5+. In fat years it's WI5+ but in lean years it's solid WI6 ice or harder.
The right side route goes as followed.
P1 Go up the cone to the base of the vertical ice and climb it until you can exit to a nice belay ledge on the right after 60 feet or so
P2 is the crux and pumpy WI5+ climbing to an ice cave belay
P3 is generally WI4 until you hit the snow which takes you to the anchors
Generally the first two pitches are the crux with the second one usually always the hardest. The top pitch is the glory pitch and usually WI4. The left side route follows the line of "least" resistance.
Route finding is key as the route is never aparent sometimes. Do your research beforehand and find out how it is formed as well as getting there early. It's crowded on the weekend and only two parties can usually get on it in a day due to icefall.
This is a serious alpine ice climb as well as a test piece for the ice climber.
Follow the road for an hour to the base. Don't go off it. Don't go within 15 feet to either side of the fall as it is ILLEGAL. Please pay respect and don't climb on the falls below the Powerhouse. It took ALOT to open the climb to the public and that priveledge could be taken away for such an action. Rappel off the right side via bolts. Don't walk around or touch the Powerhouse. Rappeling the route should be avoided due to other parties and V threads being left around on the ground in the summer. You have to sign in at the start of the trailhead or it is trespassing!
Obey these rules and review them or we all lose the priveledge.
External LinksBridalveil Falls Trip Report
Route Updates and Information