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Rigging for Rescue offers technical ropework seminars renowned for their focus on applying the critical thinking and systems analysis skills required to competently incorporate ropework and rigging into effective rescue systems. For more information visit www.riggingforrescue.com

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ingram Falls Sendfest

Yesterday, we managed to squeeze in a coveted ascent of the rarely formed Ingram Falls just prior to the start of our Waterfall Ice Workshop currently being conducted in Ouray.  Looming above the town of Telluride, Ingram Falls is in the same  general basin as its more famous neighbor, Bridalveil Falls. However, while Bridalveil faces nearly true north, Ingram has a W/NW aspect and sees a few hours of direct sunlight every afternoon.  The result is a rarely formed pillar that in most years never seems to quite touch down. This is not one of those years.  A pillar is what you came for and a pillar is what you'll find.

Ingram is in very FAT conditions at the present.  It is debatable as to whether the crux is the grade 5 pillar climbing or the 2+ hours of post-holing through San Juan depth hoar to reach the objective. Regardless, the climb is a prize tick and makes for a fine day in the mountains. Get some!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sapphire Bullets of Ice

Prior to Kevin and I taking on the CDOT rockfall mitigation rigging project, we were enjoying a typical winter in the San Juan's complete with a heavy dose of ice climbing.  One of the areas best climbs is the rarely formed Sapphire Bullets of Ice located on the main headwall to the west of Bridalveil Falls - another area classic in its own right!

Sapphire Bullets is definitely in my personal Top 5 of ice climbs in the San Juan's.  Every pitch is excellent. The climbing is engaging, but not desperate.  Super classic.  Not to be missed, if you get the chance.

We have our second Waterfall Ice Workshop offering for this winter coming up in 3 weeks time. Currently, there are two remaining spots.  If you want to hone your ice climbing skills and learn about both companion rescue and team-based rescue in the ice climbing environment, come pay us a visit for a week of quality education and training.

Berg heil.

Kevin leading the steep curtain on pitch 1

Nearing the top out - pumpy stemming

Looking down from the second belay station

Heading into the intimidating roof on pitch 3

Sapphire Bullets of Ice

Friday, January 31, 2014

Highway 550 open!!!

Today, Jan 31, Highway 550 was opened - albeit partially - for the first time since its closing on Jan 13 due to rockfall on the Ruby Walls.  I don't believe 18 days is the longest stretch of closure on 550, but it is the longest in quite some time.

All of us involved in the undertaking are understandably proud to have played a part in the success of the rockfall mitigation project. Almost all of us on the mountainside team are Western Slope residents and most of us live in Ouray or Silverton. We were speaking daily to our friends and neighbors and they were curious about the progress and encouraging us in our dogged pursuit of a solution.

We know we made a difference.  And we felt like we were the right people thrust into the right circumstances at the right time.  It is with a different set of eyes that I view that 'open' sign on the highway reader board. A tremendous accomplishment by the entire CDOT team. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ruby Walls - Last day of net laying

Ruby Walls - Red Mountain Pass- Final nets in place

Wow.  It is kind of a surreal feeling to be on the backside of the helicopter-based net laying.  What a push it was to get that completed during this favorable stretch of high pressure.  With 36 nets in place over the talus and considerable scaling completed at the top of the north gulley, the 'heavy lifting' of this project is in the rear view mirror.  There are still some important tasks remaining such as shackling the remainder of the net drapery, some spot scaling, and the installation of a cantilevered net fence at the highway level. But there won't be any more 'working for hours on end  underneath a rock-spitting 400 foot headwall' and that is a relief for all involved in this rockfall mitigation project.

We were scheduled for one more day of good weather and we took full advantage of the conditions.  We flew in the last four panels, did a bunch of scaling in the north gulley including the removal of a behemoth boulder that was teetering on the slope, shackled about 1/3 of the drapery, and scouted the remaining pockets of hanging talus on the north side of the recent disturbance.  It was a very full day as they all have been.  Collectively, we were dragging with low energy levels as we descended to the highway at the end of the day.

This unique project has been without a doubt one of the most scary, dangerous, and yet gratifying endeavors I have ever been involved with in my professional career as a ropework practitioner.  We had around 12 people on the mountain side every day representing four different CDOT contractors. Most of us met for the first time the initial morning we ascended the fixed ropes. There was a tremendous amount of professional respect, an amazing element of team work, and some serious blood, sweat, and tears poured into that slope.

So far we have a 100% safety record on the slope with some close calls due to overhead rockfall, but no injuries.  We are all very proud of the overall team effort and glad to have played an important contributing role in the success of the project.  Like everyone else, I hope the pass opens soon. I am ready to go skiing!

Cory managing a rope station

The last net inbound

Placing a net in the north gulley

The crew at the highway. Glad to be safely down. 

Ruby Walls on Jan. 29 with 36 nets in place

Searching for the keystone on the behemoth boulder

Shackling the final net

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ruby Walls - scaling bonanza

Great progress has been made each and every day, and today was no exception. It was the culmination of a lot of prep work, some favorable flying conditions, and a general 'get it done' enthusiasm that resulted in 15 additional panels being laid over the talus field.

We are steadily progressing towards the highway and there could be as few as a couple of panels remaining to complete the air support end of the operation.  The snow is predicted to be coming our way soon, so we hope to wrap up the helicopter ops tomorrow and then scale as much rock as possible in the remaining time before the storm.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Red Mountain Pass - Laying Net

Finally after a challenging week of work, we started laying mesh mats over the talus slopes below the Ruby Walls.  It was another day of high pressure. The favorable weather has really made the project achievable.

We got in another 9 mats today giving us 17 in total. We could use just ONE MORE good day of weather.  We got stood down for wind in the gorge this afternoon and that prevented us from finishing our third row deep of mats. Perhaps tomorrow AM.

Kevin and I entertained ourselves during the short wait for the wind to die down by trundling monster boulders down the north chute.  Many of them were launching clear over the highway and down towards the Uncompahgre river.

The crew has really been looking out for each other.  Our spotter on the top, Michael from Silverton, had to egress by rope due to the high winds and no helo pickup. We had supplied him with rope and also had given him the tour of the top of the cliff a few days ago.  He spots up top for bigger rockfall and prevents animals from getting over the top of our work area. Michael rappelled the 400 foot wall with aplomb and we made our way down the rope access path together.

Another day of injury free work. Let's keep it up and stay alert!