An Ice Climbing Primer
Just a couple miles east of Telluride is a route that helped alter the course of ice climbing history in North America.
Until 1974, Mahlen's Peak Waterfall in northern Utah was the only place where a climb of a steep, overhanging nature had been completed on this continent. Then Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss decided to ice climb Bridalveil Falls.
Mike led the crux, which was a three-foot roof with giant icicles drooping from the lip," Lowe later wrote of the ascent. "For 20 feet he climbed the slightly overhanging wall below the roof and then knocked a hole in the curtain of icicles. Next, he delicately bridged between the base of the icicles on either side of the hole, got the pick of his ax in above the overhang and muscled his way up. Following, it seemed equivalent to 5.10 rock climbing. We were both laughing and amazed at our success when we reached the top; we now knew we would never have to consider any ice climb in terms of aid (the practice of resting one's weight on equipment placed in the ice).
The ascent of Bridalveil ushered in a new era. Suddenly, vertical ice was considered the norm, and overhanging icewhich is often found around the roofs of caveswas considered part of the game.
For years after Weiss and Lowe's first ascent, Bridalveil drew hardmen from around the countryand it remained probably the hardest ice climb in the West until the early 1980s, testimony to Weiss and Lowe's vision.
(In recent years, public access to Bridalveil Falls has been controlled by a group of climbers and the town government in Telluride working with the Idarado Mining Co., so climbers interested in doing Bridalveil should check with local mountaineering shops and the folks in town hall before tromping up to the falls and assuming it is open.)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication