Early season ice climbing is in full swing in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. If you’re itching to get out and experience the great early season ice climbing, but you’re feeling a bit rusty after a summer away from your tools, you might consider climbing the Campground Couloir in South Mineral Creek. This classic route has a short approach, three pitches of enjoyable WI3 climbing, and fixed anchors for an easy descent. Read on to get more beta on this great early season ice climb.
Located in South Mineral Creek, the Campground Couloir is an easy one-hour drive from Ouray. Take Highway 550 South for approximately 20 miles and look for a right hand turn (West) onto Forest Service Road 585. Follow this for about 10 minutes to South Mineral Creek Campground. Park in one of the obvious pullouts at the campground. The Campground Couloir will be easily visible to the South above the campground. From the parking area, hike South toward the climb and find a spot to cross the creek. After crossing the creek, ascend the slopes below the climb to the base. The approach takes 20-30 minutes.
From the base, the route can be done as two long pitches or three shorter pitches. We prefer to do it in three pitches in order to maintain good communication between partners, so I’ll describe it here as a three pitch climb. Pitch 1 – climb a short steep flow for 40 feet to a fixed anchor on the left. As of November 2013, this anchor consists of a fixed nut and a knifeblade piton. Pitons can get loose over time so this anchor will be need to be evaluated carefully. If the anchor is not suitable, continue to the next fixed anchor that is described for pitch 2.
Here is a photo of the anchor above Pitch 1 (taken 11/2013):
Pitch 2 climbs a low angle gully above the first belay for 160 feet to a bolted anchor on the left (2 bolts). This pitch is mostly WI2 with a short bit of WI3 at the end.
Here is a photo of the bolted anchor at the end of pitch 2 (taken 11/2013):
Pitch 3 begins with a short section of steeper ice (WI3) and then continues up the gully for 120 feet (WI2) to a bolted belay on the left (2 bolts). This is another enjoyable, moderate pitch. Nothing too hard, just lots of straightforward, cruiser ice climbing.
Here is a photo of the anchor at the end of pitch 3 (taken 11/2013):
Doubel Rope Rappel Descent:
From the bolted anchor atop pitch 3, a double rope rappel reaches the bolted anchor above pitch 2. From there, a full length (60 meter) double rope rappel reaches the ground. It’s a quick, easy descent.
The Campground Couloir is a highly recommended early season ice climb. It’s short approach, moderate climbing, and relatively low commitment make it an especially good early season warm up. It is also a terrific multi-pitch climb for beginners.
Feel free to contact us at 970-325-7342 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Have fun out there and be safe!