The climbs at Booth Creek are found in the valley opposite of the Vail amphitheater, on the North side of I-70. The most well known climbs form high on the cliff band that is visible from the other Vail areas such as the amphitheater. These climbs get a lot of sun, and are sun-rotten most of the time. They appear to come in fairly early in the season and shape up nice towards the end of the season depending on temperatures, cloud coverage, and water/snow supply. It would be safe to expect some suspect ice under any conditions. There are several single pitch pillars and smears that form up, and most can be TR'd from trees above the climb.
My partner Scott Welsh recently snow-shoed a few miles back in the Booth Creek valley with his wife. This is a somewhat popular snowshoe. While they were there, they spotted a few really good looking ice climbs on the West side of the valley back in much further than the normal Booth Creek climbs. We went up there to climb them this Saturday (February 28, 2004), and found a three star ice flow with about 9 independent lines (around WI4 to WI6+ in virgin ice conditions), and potential for much more including mixed.
Plan on bringing snowshoes under most conditions, and keep a keen eye open for avy danger especially if you are approaching the climbs further back in the valley.
Addendum: Note that this area is located in a wilderness area, so no bolts or fixed anchors are allowed [with motorized drills]. Also, expect 2 hours for the approach.
Pull off of I-70 at the East Vail exit, and take the frontage road heading West on the North side of the highway. After about a quarter or half mile, take a right on Booth Creek road (right after a big bus-stop/parking lot deal). Follow the road to it's end at the Booth Creek trailhead. There is actual parking for these Vail climbs!!!
From the trailhead, start your hike directly behind the sign-in box on a faint snow shoe trail (not on the wider sidewalk/path that heads right).
To get to the obvious climbs visible from the amphitheater, follow this trail for about a mile or so, and keep an eye open for an even fainter trail heading off to the left (West) towards the climbs, if you are lucky. If no trail presents itself, make sure to head left before getting too far up the valley. Turn off while you are still in the trees somewhere. If you are confronted by a huge gorge blocking the way across the valley, you have gone too far. Attempting to cross this gully and traverse back to the climbs in deep snow will only make for a long sketchy day with little or no climbing. So, use your nose the best you can to ascertain the best turn off to the left. Pick the easiest way up the hillside to the base of the climbs. This is a somewhat long, and steep walk.
To get to the climbs further back in the valley, keep going on the snowshoe trail for maybe 4 or 4.5 miles from the trailhead. Keep an open eye on the cliff bands to the West at this point, and some blue stuff should start coming into view. This trail runs above the east side of the gorge in the bottom of the valley. To access these climbs, keep walking past them on this trail until the gorge narrows from hundreds of feet to 20-30 feet across. Pick a way down the gorge at this point. At the top of the gorge is a 200 foot(?), low angled ice flow that may be entertaining if there isn't too much snow on it. Once at the bottom of the gorge, traverse back the way you came on the other side of the gorge, and up towards the climbs. This involves some bushwhacking, and steep sections, so again, sniff your way up there. When we were done climbing, we took a different path, heading straight for the trail on the other side of the gorge. This worked well, but may have been more work on the approach. (A note of caution: the trail itself goes below a few avalanche shoots that come down regularly, and the climbs themselves have some exposure, so use your best [judgment].)
A. Unnamed (so far), WI5, 1p. B. Clay’s Pillar, WI5, 1p. C. Saddam Insane, WI5, 1p. D. Saddam’s Little brother (aka “The Little Brother”), WI5 M?, 1p. E. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow, WI5, 1p. F. Sick Puppy, WI5 M?, 2p. F. Psycho Cicle, WI5/6, 1p. G. More Junky than Funky, WI5, 1p. H. War Pig, WI5/6 M?, 1p. I. Unnamed, WI5 M?, 2p. J. Unnamed, M?, 1p.
Vail, Booth Creek Area. Took a long hike out to the area on 1/20. The right buttress has one of 4 pillars touching down. The one touching down was horrible sun rotten ice. The left Buttress had one or two pillars touching down but did not hike over to check out their quality. There is a nice fat blue curtain, WI3/4, in between the 2 buttresses that doesn't get much sun so it looked pretty good. Unless your looking for more of a hike than actual climbing I'd say the current conditions don't justify the 2 hour hike in.