Ed. here in the NE most people lead. the ice is hacked up pretty good in keene valley and frankenstine but mostly virgin sticks in Smuggs and Willoughby as well as some of my other spots. the black dike gets pretty hacked up once everyone knows it is in but when I led it the day after Christmass a few weeks ago it was virgin sticks the whole way up. was anyone climbing leashless but useing teathers?
And not even a mere mention of the BEST PARTY in all the San Juans.
I moved to the area in 1998... pretty much exclusively to climb ice. The Ouray Ice Park was in full swing by then, starting to get picked out, etc., but there was always virgin ice to poke at if one had the motivation to find it. The Park itself, although incredibly fun and technically challenging, was (at that time) still a training ground. Myself and partners would try to combine Bridalveil, Ingraham, and the Ames Ice Hose in a day, for example.
(The Hose will forever be a kick ass route.)
I'm glad you had fun, Ed! The area is full of good stuff to explore, and remember that you were there for the busiest, most zest-filled moment that punctuates an otherwise quite wild place. You'll be back.
(Jacket looks good btw. If you want to buy some new crampons to replace those old Footfangs, they will be on sale at Marmot very soon........)
Glad to see you got out to Ames and the Ribbon. I'm so thankful to Ouray for its dedication to the ice park (and for having that resource for high-avy days), but the real gems of the San Juans are, obviously, not in the park. There is a lot of ice to be had outside the park.