February 7, 2012
It has been a couple of years since I made it out to Ouray, CO. Not by choice, just by circumstance. I’ve missed it. I love the scene here and the way the town embraces ice climbers and makes them feel like favored guests.
So I agreed to meet up with my long time friend Perry Julien. He’s been out of action for about 6 years with a serious leg injury. He really did a number on it. Skiing, not climbing just to be clear. He can only bend the leg a limited amount.
Most people in this situation would give up on all outdoor activities. Not Perry. He is not one to listen to anyone who tells him he can’t do what he wants to. He likes to travel, have adventures and see the world. Perry is a fun guy to hang out with! Anyway, we agreed to meet in Ouray this year to see what we could do. Me, to get back on the ice after a time away. Perry to see if it was still possible.
The first day the big test was hiking down the climbers’ approach into the “Schoolroom”, a classic top-roping area. I was nervous at first, but Perry relied on his past climbing skills and was able to lower himself and work his way down the steep descent using the fixed hand lines and lots of careful steps down the icy “trail”. We both agreed that just being in the Ice Park made it a successful trip and it was a beautiful day. The understanding was that Perry would test his leg with a couple of short steps on the ice. My job was to provide a ready belay and keep him from any drops if he slipped. So we geared up. I set up a top rope on a 75 foot route of WI III-IV difficulty. Not too stiff for a good climber, but hard enough.
The first time up about 20 feet was a bit of a struggle. Try to kick in crampon front points with a leg you can’t bend! Perry figured out he had to set up his leg so he could take short steps on it.
It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t hurt and he was game for another go. So he went up again. Looking a lot smoother this time and just a bit higher. After a brief rest, he wanted to give it another go. He worked up to his previous high point and rested for a bit. Then he kept going. I knew he was going for the top. Not to prove anything mind you… just to set it out there that as far as he is concerned, anything and everything is possible.
It was a fun couple of days in Ouray. We already have more plans on the table. Ouray for sure, next year. Maybe a climb of Rainier in the summer. Most definitely Kilimanjaro in January 2013. For our wives, mind you. They want in on the fun too. I can’t wait. It is always a fun time with Perry.