VIDEO: BD athlete Chris Schulte bouldering through the Colorado winter
Black Diamond athlete Chris Schulte lives and breathes bouldering 24/7, 365. So it's no surprise that he makes the best of Colorado winters and gets out bouldering even in cold, snowy conditions. What is surprising, as you hear in the video below, is that Schulte actually prefers it to be freezing cold.
Over the last several years, I’ve been away for the bouldering season that stretches from November to the end of March, but this year, with the exception of a few weeks in Hueco through December, I hunkered down in Colorado for a full helping of winter. It was a touch dry this year as winters go, which gave some space for some climbing around home in a mix of conditions. We had shovelling days and exploring days, hiking uphill through waist-deep powder, watching the storms blow down the canyon like a swarm of golden bees in the patchy sunlight. We burrowed into half-bags to resuscitate wooden feet, and pulled our hoods tight as the winds blasted stinging spindrift. We warmed up on highballs in the full sun on calmer, t-shirt days.
It was my first winter in the Boulder area, though I’ve lived here seven years now.
One gets a full package experience when one heads out for a snow day: the calories burn faster and it’s more work to stay hydrated. Gear becomes a mountainous concern with shell pants, jacket, gloves, hats, gaiters, thermals, hoodies, long sleeves, thick and extra socks, sunglasses, sunscreen, trekking poles, shovels, stick brushes, push brooms, whisk brooms, a quiver of brushes, tarps, extra climbing shoes (including a pair slightly bigger than the norm, so’s to wear some socks on the really cold days?), boots, a thermos full of coffee or tea, foods full of fat and spices to keep the blood flowing and the calories up, snow shovels, snow shoes or skis, snow shovels, and snow shovels.
There are a lot of good sides to climbing through all the extra work: once clean of the white stuff, even the most miserable holds grab back. Highballs are tamed with a six foot landing zone that cushions your cratering falls all the more, and the typically horrific talus landings found across Colorado are graded out in a homogenized slope of welcoming white. Landscapes are changed to a sometimes-otherworldly space of low contrast, and the passages of wildlife are plain as posted trail. The quiet is complete, each pine needle a note on the wind.
Spring is fine and welcome here, but it won’t be long before I’m driving high and diving in to snow and cold again. The slow snow year has left bare streaks on the mountain sides, and alpine season is getting up early it seems...