Date Climbed: 2/1/20
Climbing Partners: Tony & Larry
Buena Vista, CO
Buena Vista. Not often thought of as a climbing destination, but one I'd intended to explore for a while! Two classic lines had caught my attention over the years: Agnes Vaille Falls (infamous for a rock fall that had killed a family) and The Spout (a.k.a. Paradise Falls). Neither are considered difficult, but both are adventurous in nature.
This time around, Larry and Tony would be joining me. We booked the only 3 bed hotel available in the area and spent a cozy night enjoying the local watering holes. The next morning, after some coffee and discussion, we made our commute over to Agnes Vaille Falls, just down the road from the Princeton Hot Springs.
For once, it was an enjoyable approach! The day was cloudy and windy, but not too cold. Rockfall was obvious the entire way in, and we made sure to set up our belay in a shelter area. The column was much larger than I expected, but not too difficult. The only question mark was the last 10 feet- was it still attached? Or would I be jumping from inch thick ice onto a frozen river above? There was only one way to find out.
The first half of the climb was very enjoyable neve, followed by mushrooms of brittle ice. Thankfully, the protection was decent, and the climbing was awkward, but manageable. After a tricky traverse, I was able to lay eyes on the last 10 feet. It was much too thin, with a large amount of rushing water behind; it was unclimbable on lead.
Desperation set in as I realized how I had underestimated the predicament of bailing off of very thin ice. An old, rusty piton backed up by a large screw was my only option, and after a nerve racking descent, I was safely on the ground.
Now we had two problems: one, my screws and protection were still in the ice above and two; the others still needed a turn. I volunteered to scramble up the side in an attempt to find bolts to rappel and grab my screws on the way down, which would then allow me to set up a top rope for the others to climb.
The scramble and descent turned out to be a nightmare, taking a couple of hours with no bolts or good anchors to be found above. After some creativity on my part, I was just able to set up a top rope below the top of the waterfall and everyone got their turn. Unfortunately, this meant we did not make it over to Paradise Falls, which we would have to come back for. Despite this, it was a good day on the ice and I was very thankful to spend time with my partners!