Second Gully WI3/4

Page Type Page Type: Route
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering, Ice Climbing
Seasons Season: Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Difficulty: WI3
Additional Information Number of Pitches: 5
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Second Gully WI3
Second Gully, Eureka, Colorado.

Second Gully
is another popular ice climb in Eureka, Colorado, just outside the historic town of Silverton. It is slightly more difficult when compared to First Gully climb, but much easier than other climbs at Eureka, e.g. Stairway to Heaven, Goldrush, or Whorehouse Hoses

Both Cameron Burns in his Colorado Ice Climbing Guide and Jack Roberts in his Colorado Ice give it a rating of WI4, but it feels more like WI3, with very short sections of WI4, which can be avoided by climbing around on easier ice. It is low angle and many variations are possible, higher up we found sections with WI 2-3, and some snow hiking in between ice flows. There are bolted anchors with chains at the top of the first 3 pitches (many parties turn around here). You have to use tree anchors higher up. Descent is either rappel (our choice), or hike down, which we did not see very obvious. 

Eureka is a mining ghost town along the Animas River between Silverton and Animas Forks. The town got its start in 1860 when a small group of miners began to dig and pan around the banks of the Animas River. The train service came to town in 1896. The Sunnyside mill was the main economic source for the town. When the mill closed in 1938, Eureka was no more. What are left are foundations that climb the mountain sides reminders of the town that was. 

Elevation in Eureka: 9,862 feet (=3,006 meters). The Second Gully start is another 150 feet higher in elevation (just over 10,000 feet). 

Nice place to stay in Eureka: Eureka Lodge (former Outward Bound Hotel).

Always check avalanche conditions before venturing in this area: Northern San Juan Avalanche Forecast

Getting There

Outward Bound Hotel
Outward Bound Hotel is now Eureka Lodge. 
Approach to Second Gully
Snow Road Approach

From the Main Street in Silverton, continue onto good dirt road - Hwy 110 - which is snowplowed for the first 9 miles. (I would like to mention that both maps and guidebooks call the road 110, but when passing through Silverton, 110 will take you the Silverton Ski Area, and you will turn right onto Country Road 2). Park at the large parking lot on the west side of the road. There is a dry toilet (hard to access in the winter since the door gets often buried in the snow, and if the door is accessible the toilet tends to be very dirty). 
You can see Stairway to Heaven WI4 from the parking lot if you look northeast - it is the largest ice pathway on the western slopes of Peak 13,419. You can also catch a glimpse of Whorehose Hoses WI4/5 if looking east from the parking lot. First Gully WI3 is located on the opposite site of the valley and about 0.1 miles further away. Second Gully is another 500 feet up the road, and before Goldrush WI4
Approach is on the snow road, which is usually packed hard with snowmobiles and snow cat (this is the approach for Eureka Lodge, formerly known as Outward Bound Hotel). Skis or snowshoes are not needed on the approach. You will get great views of the Stairway to Heaven climb. Continue past Stairway to Heaven, and look to your left. Pass First Gully, and the next large gully (much closer to the road than First Gully) is your destination - Second Gully. Total distance hiking distance from Eureka Gulch Bridge is 1.2 miles (from parking lot less than a mile). 

Eureka is an abandoned mining community nine miles northeast of Silverton on Hwy 110. Highway 110 is a bit misnomer, as it is an unpaved road that connects Silverton to Lake City via Cinnamon Pass. The first section of the road is well maintained and accessible by low clearance 2WD vehicles. The road is kept open even in the winter to Eureka Gulch parking lot. There is a nice cross country ski trail leading along this road and Animas River. This road is very scenic in the summer and is part of the Scenic Alpine Route over the San Juans

Ice Climbs in Eureka

The whole area of Eureka is a popular ice climbing destination. As mentioned above Second Gully is one of the easier climbs in the area. Below are photos of some of the more popular ice climbs at Eureka. 
SP site for Eureka - click here.

Second Gully and Goldrush
Second Gully WI3 and Goldrush WI4, Eureka Colorado. (Second Gully on the left, Goldrush on the right).

Stairway to Heaven
 Stairway to Heaven  WI4

Climber approaching Second Gully
Climber approaching Second Gully. Goldrush WI4 on the right.

Whorehouse Hoses WI5
Whorehouse Hoses WI4/5

First Gully WI3
First Gully WI3

Across the valley
View of "Stairway to Heaven" and "Highway to Hell" 

Bad Ass Pencil WI5/6
Bad Ass Pencil WI5

3rd Icefalls = Pitch 3
3rd pitch of Whorehouse Hoses - 2 icefalls

Highway to Hell WI4
Highway to Hell WI4+ 

Hoser's Highway WI5
Hoser's Highway WI5

Route Description

Difficulty: WI 3-4
Length: ~ 800 feet = 240 meters
Season: sometimes from November till March (in November you may be able to drive to the start of the climb if conditions dry and cold, typically you have to hike up less than a mile from the parking lot).
Number of pitches: 5, many parties turn around at the top of the pitch 3.

Pitch 1: WI 3/4 - the nicest part of the climb is right here. Start of the obvious huge and fat ice, choose from many variations, can make it WI3 or WI4 based on your control. Once you get over this large ice flow, continue up on low angled ice/snow to bolted anchors with chains. This anchors are located almost 60 meters from your start, and are on a rock in the middle of the gully. 
Pitch 2: WI 2/3 - nice climbing over low angled ice with a several bulges, several variations can make it more WI3, or more WI2. This pitch is about 65 meters long to get you from anchors to anchors. Consider bringing 70 meter rope or make your own anchors halfway into your climb. Again, bolted anchors at the top of the 2nd pitch, on the climber's right (sort of hiding behind some trees, we headed for the trees to make a tree anchor and found nice bolted anchor instead).
Pitch 3: WI 2 - short sections of ice and a lot of snow gully climbing (may be low angled ice if conditions dry). There are bolted anchors about 55 meters high up, again located on climber's right. Many parties turn around here. These are last bolted anchors on the climb.
Pitch 4: Snow gully/low angled ice, very easy climbing to a tree on climber's left. This will bring you to a large ice flow on the right side. ~ 40 meters long. Tree anchor - make it yourself.
Pitch 5: WI 2/3 - nice and wide flow of ice at the top of the Second Gully, brings you to some forested area. You can create many anchors using trees. We found some old webbing we did not trust, so we replaced it during our rappel. ~ 40 meters long. 

Many variations are possible. You can shorten up some of the pitches. You can make it feel more like WI4, or WI3 depending on your comfort level and mood.

Second Gully -1st pitch
Nice and thick ice on the first pitch of Second Gully.

Second Gully -1st pitch
This was the top of the flow on the first pitch, Second Gully. 
Top of first pitch, Second Gully
There is a short section of 40/50 degree snow climb above the ice flow visible from the start. Don't miss the bolted anchors about 60 meters from the start. 

2nd pitch, Second Gully
2nd pitch, Second Gully - about 65 meters long, again bolted anchors. 

Second Pitch, Second Gully
Second Pitch, Second Gully - higher up.
2nd pitch, Second Gully
Top of the second pitch, Second Gully. Another party coming up, while our rappel ropes set up.

2nd pitch, Second Gully
Another party on the second pitch of Second Gully. They chose to climb around the steeper bulges and made it more WI2 variation of this pitch.

3rd pitch, Second Gully
Mostly snow climbing with short sections of ice.
Pitch 4 - snow climb
Pitch 4 is a short, about 40 degree steep snow climb from the anchors #3. 

3rd pitch, Second Gully
3rd pitch, Second Gully, looking down. Belayer standing at bolted anchors. 

Pitch 5 - Second Gully
Pitch 5, Second Gully - this was the last ice flow, about WI2+. No more anchors above here, but plenty of trees to sling (we found only old webbing, which we did not trust and replaced it).
Rappel Second Gully
Rappel on the first pitch of Second Gully.

Essential Gear

  • Nice ice
    Nice ice
  • Ice tools
  • Harness
  • Helmet (is a must, tons of ice falling down the gully, especially if another party is climbing above you)
  • Full rack of ice screws
  • Draws/screamers
  • Belay device
  • Rope (could be done with 60 meter rope, but you would have to build your own anchor since the 2nd pitch is about 65 meters long, or simu-climb for a short section)
  • Always good to carry v-thread material (v-thread tool, some webbing)
  • Anchoring stuff for the higher pitches (first three anchors are bolts with chains, higher up you have to use trees, or build ice anchors)
  • Warm clothing, hand warmers. Extra gloves (I like to use liners, thinner gloves for leading and thicker gloves for belaying. Keep gloves inside your jackets, otherwise you collect some snow in).
  • Thermos with a hot beverage.

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