Type: Trad, Mixed, Ice, 500 ft (152 m), 3 pitches, Grade III
FA: J. Lowe, D. Breashears, K. Donald, 1977
Page Views: 10,375 total · 42/month
Shared By: Leo Paik on Feb 12, 2004
Admins: Edward Medina, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

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Description Suggest change

Just S of Ouray is a beautiful amphitheatre at the Engineer Pass turnoff with some gorgeous ice climbs like Mixed Emotions, Kennedy's Gully, Blue Condition, Abraxas, Gravity's Rainbow, & Over the Rainbow. J. Roberts' Colorado Ice describes this as one of the top 5 ice climbs in the Ouray area. Perhaps with wonderful books like Vertigo Games by G. Randall or simply a drive over the Million Dollar highway towards Red Mountain Pass, the curiosity of many of climber is peaked and someday you find yourself with the right conditions and the right energy and there you are. Gravity's Rainbow.

According to Vertigo Games, the name for the climb comes from a rainbow visible independent of the angle in the 1st pitch on the first ascent & T. Pynchon's war novel.

A 15-30 minute wander/wallow up the road and then up a snowfield brings you to the base of this climb. Start early as the climb comes into the sun about 2.5-3h hours after sunrise. It faces SSW. Ice conditions on the route can vary tremendously. Supposedly on the 1st ascent, the bottom half of the climbed melted by the next day. A cold or cloudy is preferable. It is not always in shape.

P1. Multiple options possible although the left side of the ice seems to be most inviting. Find weird, mixed terrain up a sloping ramp with difficult pro to a short vertical step. Follow lower-angled waves of ice to a small, sloping, rock ledge on the left. Protect yourself by hiding behind the small rock wall on the L. There is a low fixed angle here. Ice can be thin. Water can be running on this pitch. Don't expect to sink 22cm screws. 190 feet.

P2. Water runs just to the right of the start of this pitch. Start up a short, steeper bit of ice and then continue up lower-angled waves to a protected rock anchor (angle plus slings around a rock horn) on the right. Most likely you will break out into the sun on this pitch. The anchor at the top of this pitch is the 2nd to last rappel anchor. 150 feet.

P3. Move left up easier ice, now likely hollow, to a groove/runnel. Find some mixed rock moves whose difficulty will depend on the consistency of the ice/slush in the groove. Gain a small ledge below the headwall. Gun for some rests about 40 feet up. Follow waves of ice up & right, up, and then left to the top. Find a creative, fixed, rock on the left. This is the 3rd to last rap anchor. 190 feet.

P4. Continue up deep snow up & right to find an left-angling chimney to the top. This pitch can be significantly melted out. Many folks rappel after 3 pitches (like us). Rap.

To descend: Rappel P3's anchor down to P2's anchor, 190 feet. Rappel a shorter bit (?100 feet) to a less-than-awe-inspiring anchor with very old slings and a newer loop of rope around a large rock horn. Rappel 190 feet to the base. You rappel to the nadir of the ice.

It is fortunately easy to assess if you will be 1st (much preferable) on this climb from the parking spot.

Beware with parties above & below you on this climb. Lots of ice goes flying on P2 & P3.

A classic.

Protection Suggest change

Medium screws, some stubbies, a few thin pitches, small rock gear. 60m ropes strongly recommended.

Toprope Protection Suggest change

One heck of a long rope, Texas-sized.