For Jason Nelson, being called crazy is a compliment. That’s exactly what his climbing partner, Beth Goralski, called him on the "wildly exposed" second pitch of their new 5-pitch mixed-line, Somewhere Over the Rainbow (M11), in Ouray, Colorado.
“The rock is really good for most of it, and the location is really neat. In terms of multi-pitch mixed-climbs, most of which go up gullies, this [climb] is really steep.”
Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which is located on The Hall of Justice, up Camp Bird Road, offers a wide variety of climbing including super steep choss, exposed traverses, squeeze chimneys filled with ice, and off-widths.
The first pitch, according to Nelson, is the "nastiest" one, and starts up Nelson's own bolted dry-tool line Holy Girlpile Batman! (M12), but traverses left mid-route into an arch feature, which is the inspiration behind the route's name. Steep, crumbly rock due to running water characterizes this pitch, and Neslon proposed M11 for the grade. The second pitch is an exposed traverse crossing under the arch, which Nelson gave the dry-tooling grade of D7 to, and this is followed by some “easier” terrain on pitch 3 through naturally protected cracks at a suggested grade of D6.
From there, pitch four leads into a tight chimney thinly coated with ice. After an ice traverse, pitch four continues into an overhanging chimney with ice in it. Nelson described this part of the fourth pitch on his website, writing: “The ice climbing falls out of definition by current ice grades. I mean really, pulling with one tool in ice and doing an arm bar with the other arm just doesn’t fit into our grading for ice.” Nelson is not sure about the grade of this exciting pitch, but believes the effort required could fall somewhere in the 5.10 range.
The final pitch, which Nelson says is 5.10, requires a creative combination of “stemming, arm bars, chicken wings and pocket pulling,” to get through yet another overhanging chimney with ice in the back. Nelson and Goralski completed this pitch in the dark with one quickly fading head-lamp.
“There was no suffering involved,” Nelson said, but added, “getting off was tricky.” The decent involved trying to find bolted anchors, which he had set up five years prior, in the dark while crawling on an exposed and loose ledge.
Nelson admits to seeking out obscure and adventurous climbing. He loves the route but recommends that only climbers with plenty of mixed-climbing experience attempt it.
“The M11 start takes it out of the running for most people,” Nelson told Rock and Ice.
Nelson splits his time between Salt Lake City and Ouray and has been establishing hard routes in Ouray since 2002. He’s authored a guide-book for the area, Ouray Silverton and Ridgeways Rock Climbing Guide, which features many of his own first ascents numbering upwards of 50.
Goralski, a Ouray Ice Park ice farmer, has climbed at a number of competitions including this year’s Ouray Ice Festival Elite Mixed-Climbing Comp.
When asked about finding partners for hard climbs, Nelson admitted that, “It's tough to find people who are psyched to climb hard mixed and dry-tooling routes, let alone new ones. I'm really grateful to have connected with Beth this year. ”