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Trip Report: Ice Climbing “Mo Flo Than Go”

Being from Ohio, Toby Gandy doesn’t have much access to big terrain for skiing.  He made the trip out to Colorado to take an AIARE Avalanche Level 1 Course with us, along with a guided day in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Originally Toby wanted to ski Corral Couloir…

…With the minimal snow coverage RMNP had in early December we agreed that a good ski decent was going to be challenging to find. At best it would be limited to survival turns with a chance of core shots – not optimal for a fun day out. I’d always wanted to try ice climbing and also wanted some coaching on basic mountaineering skills, so we decided on an ice climb with an approach on skis.

Our day started off with a quick tour up the summer trail to Loch Vale’s “Mo Flo than Go” ice route. Once at the climb we transitioned to crampons. With a quick review of belay and basic ice climbing skills, CMS Guide Andrew Councell led the route and setup up a top rope. I’d never ice climbed before (and have minimal rock climbing experience) so with a good dose of adrenaline I planted my pick. Thock, thock, kick, kick and I was off. My first attempt was up lookers right. A small pitch with a bench in the middle and then on up to the trees at the top. With a quick traverse across the top rock ledge I was done and ready to rappel back to the ground. I felt pretty good and was having a great time. It’s a great feeling to be in such a quiet location with just the simple sounds of climbing to be heard.

Author Toby Gandy learning how to ice climb at Loch Vale in RMNP.
The next pitch was up the left hand vertical side. Andrew took a couple of laps and I had a couple more climbs up the pitch. Inevitably my arms began to get pumped and I was struggling to keep going. Andrew did a great job of explaining how to climb more efficiently and I managed to hang in there for a final lap.

CMS Guide Andrew Councell looking sylish with his new Marmot Spire Pants.
Exhilarated and exhausted, Andrew suggested we take a break. He ran through the basics of building THINX ski anchors, then worked on explaining ice screw placement and finally showed me how to make a v-slot anchor. After a quick bite to eat we packed up our gear and ran our rope through a natural ice column to act as a our final rappel anchor. With skis on we rappelled backwards onto the first part of the slope, pulled the rope through and got a couple of quick turns in down to the trail.

Learning ski mountaineering skills: rappelling with your skis on.
We toured on up Tyndall creek drainage and across Bear lake to get a view of some of the walls further up but unfortunately the clouds were obscuring the view. After some scrambling across some talus we got back to the trail and skied back down to the parking lot – an adventure in itself.

After a quick ride back to the CMS office to drop off gear we headed to Ed’s Cantina for beers and food. What a great day, with an excellent and friendly guide. A fantastic new sport which I will definitely try again – I’m hooked.

~Toby Gandy

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