Steamboat Springs One of Peter Van De Carr's favorite winter pastimes involves ice. Not the horizontal sheet of ice found at a skating rink, but vertical ice ice that begs to be climbed.
He has visited ice climbing destinations outside Ouray and Cody, Wyo. Closer to home, there is Fish Creek Falls. But even closer to home is Mad Dog's Fang.
Mad Dog's Fang is a 25-foot-tall needle of ice Van De Carr is building outside the door of his sporting goods store with the help of a couple of strands of metal chain and a garden hose. Van De Carr named the ice climbing route on the spur of the moment this week as he stabbed his crampons into the ice for the first time.
"It's here basically for show for demonstration purposes," Van De Carr said Wednesday as he hung from a pair of ice axes, with their points dug firmly into the "fang."
Van De Carr's store, Backdoor Sports, specializes in equipment for outdoor adventures. His new mini climbing wall is right outside the shop, just steps from the Yampa River at Eighth and Yampa streets. One of his primary purposes, Van De Carr said, is to draw attention to an ongoing effort to raise funds for a permanent climbing wall at Howelsen Hill that would be used both in summer and winter.
"The whole idea is to stir interest in our bigger project," said Van De Carr, who is a member of the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission. "I'm trying to show how easily it can be done."
Van De Carr takes a bow to another local man, John Beaupre, who showed him how to build his own ice climbing needle. The ice climbing facility in Beaupre's backyard is something to behold, Van De Carr said.
"John Beaupre is the Johnny Appleseed of ice climbing walls," Van De Carr said. "He's setting them up all over the place. His is lit, and it's incredibly beautiful at night."
Van De Carr has hung a garden hose from the limb of a cottonwood tree behind his shop. Water from the slowly running hose dribbles down the metal chain, freezing as it falls. Gradually, the ice needle has built up until it's nearly ready for climbing. At first glance, it appears the ice is hanging from the tree limb.
"The biggest concern people have is the tree," Van De Carr acknowledge. "Well, it's not suspended from the tree, it forms from the ground up," so the ice needle is free standing.
Of course, ice climbing is potentially dangerous unless people have proper instruction and equipment. Mad Dog's Fang isn't meant for public climbing. Van De Carr said he'll be very selective about who is allowed to climb on Mad Dog's Fang.
"I wouldn't mind (members of the public seeking permission to climb the fang), as long as they are experienced and use a (safety) rope," he said.
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