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Routes in East of Peak to Peak - S. St. Vrain

Dead Men Chipping T WI4+ R
Road Rash T,S WI5+ M6
Skidmark Left T,S WI5+
Skidmark Right T,S WI5+ M6
St. Vrain Falls T WI2-3
Vrain Strain T WI5 M5 R
Type: Trad, Ice, 175 ft
FA: Topher Donahue and Bernard Gillett, 2007
Page Views: 2,629 total, 20/month
Shared By: Bernard Gillett on Jan 18, 2007
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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This is a long, fantastic pitch of thin ice that forms up infrequently. It is located in the south fork of Deadman Gulch, which is a side drainage in the lower part of South Saint Vrain Canyon, 3.6 miles up CO Hwy 7 from the west end of Lyons (0.0 mile is the intersection of US Hwy 36 and CO 7). Parking is difficult after snow storms due to the plowed snowbanks along the hwy -- if the snowbanks are gone, it's a good bet the ice is as well.

When it's in, the first half is a narrow flow of 70-degree ice with little bulges; it ends at a stance beneath the crux pillar. Pull through this onto thicker, golden ice (75-80 degrees) and continue to a belay at 175 feet, next to a fixed rappel anchor (piton and wire). There's 25 feet of easier ice in a narrow channel above the belay that could be taken into the trees (you'll run out of rope with a 60 m cord if you try to reach the trees in one pitch). I would recommend this climb only to those proficient at WI5: the protection is slim in spots, and though none of the climbing is very difficult, a light touch is necessary due to thin ice.


Get a map (USGS Lyons Quad is a good choice) and find Deadman Gulch (about 1.5 miles east of Coffintop Mtn, and north of CO Hwy 7). Note the intermittent stream on the map: the route is located in the south fork of the gulch, above the left branch of the stream. It is not visible from the road. There's a 200-foot wall on the north-facing slope of the south fork; the climb goes right up the middle of the wall. This wall is the same rock band that wraps around a knoll to become December Wall on the opposite side.

The best method of approach takes the east ridge of the knoll for a few hundred yards to an old fence, hops over the fence, contours along the hill to its north-facing aspect, and then angles up to the base of the climb. However, unless you know the terrain well, you'll end up wandering in the woods trying to find this thing, and you'll wonder whether it really exists -- the ice is not visible on this approach until you're right under it.

A better method for first timers: either follow the stream in Deadman Gulch, or hike the hillside to its right (better), and continue up the main gulch. Somewhere around 1/3 mile into your hike, you should get a great view into the clandestine south fork of the gulch (it is from here that the photo was taken). Once you locate the ice, it shouldn't be much trouble picking out a line to reach its base. The direct approach described above is probably only 1/3 mile, though it takes about 30 minutes. Bank on an extra 10-15 minutes if you take the detour to locate the ice and discern its condition.


Short and medium screws, a light rock rack, and several long slings. The rock protection is not obvious -- search left and right of the route. Most of the ice was 3-8 inches thick in the conditions we found. A long screw is useful for the belay. You may want Screamers for the stubbies.
Heya cammo -
Try e-mailing Bernard G. - he knows this area and its history better than anyone I'd guess. Jan 28, 2009
About a year ago, Benny Bach and I went up and did several routes up and right of this one (quite a way up---past Topher and Bernard's route). There are several little routes up there (emphasis on little). Anyone got any info on them? Cam Apr 17, 2008
Armin Colorado
Boulder, CO
Armin Colorado   Boulder, CO
My partner and I tried this route, all of his screws were complete junk (stubbies halfway driven in air pockets) until he could sling the pillar. He did bypass what looked like a good 0.75/#1 Camalot placement off right about 20' up. We bailed from the pillar, thinking the upper ice looked even worse than 2"-3" ice below the pillar. Did anyone else get better conditions last week, or do my partner and I have a lack of balls syndrome? Feb 1, 2007
Greg Sievers
Bozeman, MT
Greg Sievers   Bozeman, MT
We very much enjoyed the route today (1/21). What a fine treat. Good eye. Bob J. told me you've been eyeing that drip for years?

All the other comments are right-on except for the single rope usage. Your pin/nut achor is good, but I would not suggest trying to rap off with a single thread. I don't see any reason to try down-climbing 20' of very thin ice. We used a 70m rope and the result would have been the same. I was glad to have the 2nd rope and rap to the ground. Jan 21, 2007
Thanks for posting this climb B and T, what a treat! Jim Ruch and I got on it Saturday (1/20) morning. Not knowing the area, we started up the creekbed and skirted around the ridge off the road. We then slugged up the hill before the trees and picked up your trail. With this colder weather holding and no one yet repeating it, the climb was in great shape. We climbed with twin 50s and belayed from the right at the base of the climb. As a result we had no problem reaching your fixed pro. Until RalphE showed up at 1:30, we had the climb all to ourselves so we lapped it on TR. The ice below the curtain was definitely thin but fun climbing. Thanks again for the posting,

Nick Gloyd Jan 21, 2007
Boulder, CO
RalphE   Boulder, CO
Great write-up Bernard, the contribution is appreciated. There is now a well established path atop the east ridge knoll as described in the best method of approach. Given the north aspect, the climb is surviving well despite the warm weather yesterday. This one put the first smile of the day on my partner Mary Ann.

A rappel from the fixed anchor using a single 70m rope plus a short 5-meter downclimb gets you back down. Ugh, don't forget the stubbies like someone we won't mention; this one offers moderate moves with sparse protection. Jan 21, 2007
Ron Olsen
Boulder, CO
Ron Olsen   Boulder, CO
Topozone Map of the area.

Approximate GPS coordinates: 40.2027°N, 105.3272°W (NAD27) Jan 19, 2007
We climbed this route today (Jan 18, 2007) and I decided to post it immediately to give other people a chance to do it -- it may get trashed out if this attracts a half-dozen parties to the area (the ice is thin and delicate in spots). Both Topher and I felt this is one of the better pitches of ice in the lowlands of the Front Range. The route receives no sun this time of year, so perhaps it'll stick around through a couple warm days, but I doubt it can withstand the standard warm spells of winter.

We also saw a few short bits of ice (nothing bigger than 40 feet) on the opposite side of the gulch: a pillar coming out of a narrow slot, and a neat little chimney of ice. They were getting sun, but they looked thick enough to last through the weekend.

Unless you get lucky and happen upon conditions we found, be prepared for disappointment (and if you're reading this post-2007, realize that 45-50 inches of snow fell in Longmont in the month preceding our ascent, with a long stretch of wintery weather). Jan 19, 2007