During our holiday break from school, Jackson, Jackson’s dad Tom, and my brother Max and I had the chance to explore around Ouray, Colorado for three days.

On our first day, we decided to take it easy as a rest and relax day after the long drive from New Mexico the previous night. We spent the hours wandering our town into corky shops and cafes then went to check out an old mining site in town along a dirt road. Although you could not go in, it was very interesting to explore outside of the mine and see the wooden architecture that has been slowly collapsing. Nearing 3:00 pm, we headed to the Ouray Ice Park to check out the conditions. We learned that the ice park wouldn’t open for another week even though it was supposed to open while we were there. Instead, we went scavenging for backcountry climbs up a mining road a guide had told us to explore. Once it started to become dark, we headed back down into town and had a quiet evening enjoying some of our hotel’s local hot springs.

The second day consisted of a day of touring with a local guide named Matt from Peak Mountain Guides. Matt helped us gain familiarity with the local mountains and how to study weather patterns in the San Juan Mountains. We toured around the Red Mountain Pass Range and had a blast skiing some powder.The snow conditions were moderate, and we avoided avalanche warnings high above treeline. 

We spent most of the day in a snow pit, going through snow tests, logging in information, and identifying all the types of snow crystals. It was a beautiful bluebird day filled with about 16 inches of fresh new snow. When the day came to an end, our legs were fried, and we enjoyed a hot meal at a local Mexican restaurant and an early sleep.

The next morning we left in search of some ice climbing. We headed to the backcountry area we had previously looked at and that Matt suggested. All of the climbs were crammed with people since the Ice Park was closed. After waiting a bit, we finally snuck into an intermediate climb along the valley. It was a fun and challenging route filled with a little bit of mixed climbing and a fulfilling view at the top. We each got to climb twice up the pitch and by the time we were packing up, our fingers were freezing and the temps were increasingly dropping. We walked down eager to gain the feeling in our fingers again and exhausted from a rad day of climbing. That night, we headed on a six-hour drive back to New Mexico and said our goodbyes to Ouray. 

-Petra Zeiler