I find backcountry waterfall ice grades near Ouray are almost two grades easier than the same grade in the Canadian Rockies. We paid little attention (mostly because I need reading glasses) to the grade of what we were climbing this particular trip. When I got home and opened the book, I was shocked to see Skylight rated as a WI 5, M5/6? After the ice festival of 2011, we found this climb mostly in WI 3-4 condition and found little need to use the rock although it was constantly there to stem off of making the climb even easier. The only real tricky section was mounting the chock stone on the first pitch. Jack Roberts guide book suggest a #4 C4 to protect this section and that makes sense even though I had no rock gear on me at the time and got along just fine. The ice was a bit thin and hollow on this first pitch, although the climbing was fairly easy, which made it hard to protect the delicate move up and left into the snow above the chock stone. I definitely advise using screamers on the first pitch. The second pitch is what makes this route classic with the locals. It is a long (70m rope barely makes the rap back down) ice/rock chimney. I have rarely found climbing ice so easy and again was taken by surprise of the WI 5 rating. If you wanted a rest, you simply pressed your back against the rock for much of the pitch. This appears to be a popular route and was quite stepped and picked out in mid January, 2011.
Drive down Camp Bird road to its winter dead end at Senator’s Gulch. Walk up the road past the overhanging mixed lines and Skylight will be your first ice climb on the right and starts right at the base of the road. The second pitch is easy to identify as a well seeded ice choked chimney up above. The first pitch is easily marked with a significant chock stone that must be passed.
Route DescriptionPitch 1, 90’, WI 4, M 5/Again, I did not see this pitch anywhere close to this grade, but it is what the local guide book suggests. Climb up the short fall, stemming out right on the rock when needed. The ice can be hollow and thin on this section requiring the use of screamers. Mounting the chock stone to the left is the crux of the entire climb we thought (guide book recommends you can protect with a #4 C4). The ice runs into snow at a straight vertical move. Either dry tool and/or heave your tools into the thin ice and snow above the chock stone. Once on top of the chock stone, hike up the snow and either belay off of a fixed station on your left that might be covered in snow (2010) or hike back right and belay off of a large tree, in the afternoon sun.
Pitch 2, 120’, WI 4/The guidebook suggest WI 5 somewhere on this climb, but we did not see any hint of that. Nor do you need to use the rock at all unless you want to stem up this second pitch which makes the climbing quite a bit easier. Move the belay deep into the base of the pitch so that the belayer will not be exposed to falling debris. The ice is much thicker on this pitch than the first pitch and we could place screws at will in mid January. It was also quite kicked and picked out. Top out below a short curtain above on a large snow ledge.
DescentPlace a V thread at the base of the short curtain and rap with doubles or a 70m rope. A 70m rope might require you down climb a meter or two. Walk down and left to the tree and make a single rope rap to the road.
External LinksOuray Ice Park
Canadian Rockies Ice
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Donorcicle, WI 5, Joe’s Valley, UT
Kanarraville Falls, WI 4+, Kanarraville, UT
Hidden Haven, WI 3-4, Parowan, UT