Steve Elder - The Talisman WI5-6, M6 Ouray, Colorado

Steve Elder - The Talisman WI5-6, M6 Ouray, Colorado

Steve Elder report on climbing The Talisman WI5-6, M6 in Ouray, Colorado
2023 NW Alpine Spring Product Preview Reading Steve Elder - The Talisman WI5-6, M6 Ouray, Colorado 3 minutes Next Way Off the Map in NE India

Back in 2014, just a day after climbing Bird Brain Boulevard with Michael Layton, I was skiing back down Camp Bird Road and stopped to gaze over at the Talisman. This amazing looking mixed route has been on my radar ever since, but it had not come back into condition until this season. Although it was not nearly as fat as the 2014 season, it was getting climbed by a few teams of top end climbers. I wouldn’t consider myself in that category, but I felt strongly that I could do it with the right partner. This turned out to be Micah Lewkowitz who runs his own guiding company, Splitter Alpine Adventures. Micah had already done the route 3 times this season, so I felt he was the ideal person to guide me up it. He was fairly busy with his other guiding commitments, but we finally had a tiny window of opportunity with both weather and conditions.

Steve topping out pitch 1 of Talisman mixed climb Ouray Colorado photo by Micah Lewkowitz

The route is a simply staggering looking mix of ice and rock, creating a line that tests a lot of skills. The approach is also no joke, being very prone to avalanche in the main approach gully. Micah had a safe route up through tight trees that got us to the base using snowshoes. On the day, the first pitch started out very thin, delaminated, and wouldn’t take even ultra 2” stubbies until about 40’ up. After that, it was fun WI4 to the belay.

Pitch 2 really is the business, with a very steep, leftwards rising traverse that usually has a series of ice hummocks that one can step between, and then culminating in a dry tooling chimney that goes at about M6. For us, there was one ice hummock at the start, and the rest was all tricky dry tooling at about M7-8. Micah did a fantastic job of leading the pitch, and even got good pro considering how rotten the rock was.

Micah starting crux pitch 2 Talisman mixed climb Ouray Colorado photo by Steve Elder

The third and final pitch started with a very tenuous and awkward traverse out right to gain the upper ice pillar. Luckily there were a couple of very positive pick torques in amongst the rotten rock, and they allowed us both to step over onto a small ice hummock, and reach up and around to get a stick in the ice. There followed about 50 feet of plumb vertical WI6 ice, and then some easier WI4-5 to the top.

Micah leading traverse on pitch 3 Talisman mixed climbing route Ouray Colorado photo by Frank Robertson

Just as I pulled over the top, the forecasted snow began in earnest, and our view of the valley disappeared. What a great end to a great climb with an amazing partner.

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