Saturday, October 17, 2015

Open Cut perfect place for an ice climbing park

Well, it's that time of year again.

Not long after Homestake Mining Company announced its intent to close operations in Lead, we were listening to this NPR story about an ice climbing park in Ouray, Colorado, a former mining town that has remade itself by farming ice.

My daughters' mother turned to me and said: "Wow, they should do that in the Open Cut."

It was if she had spoken with the Voice of God. I called for an appointment and met the very next day with Bruce Breid, the general manager charged with the mine's mothballing, an aerial photo of the pit displayed on the wall behind his desk.

"What a brilliant idea, Mr. Kurtz, we have water here, here, and here," Mr. Breid said, pointing to locations at the rim near the Homestake Visitor Center. "Can you provide a legal instrument holding Homestake harmless?"

Right. There was that.

Though not a climber myself, more research led me to locals, some of whom had actually climbed some of the natural seeps deep in the pit while working for subcontract miners.

The horseshoe-shaped bowl directly under the Visitors Center is geologically sound, anchors for top roping easy to place. I have spoken to every Lead mayor since; the desired property is in the city limits. Barrick, the current owner has resisted any discussion of the concept. The Authority governing development of the Lab looks at me like deer in headlights.

The Open Cut contributes about 11% of the water to the mine being pumped for the Lab, the ice climbing park would add another 5000 gallons or so. If a clay liner would be applied to the floor of the pit, the resulting reservoir (yes, acidic mine runoff mostly) could be tapped for emergency fire-fighting or diverted to the treatment facility for water from Sawpit Gulch in Central City: some of that is already happening.

The pit is home to some very porous rock; filling the pit with water would only succeed in filling the emerging lab. Barrick wants the wall of the pit to "spall," ie. move loose material from the walls to the floor. Accelerating this process would serve the purpose.

Ice climbing is driving the economies of several former mining towns like Bozeman, Montana; Durango and Ouray, Colorado; and Cody, Wyoming.
The organizers of North America's first mixed climbing competition for teenagers hope an event held here will be a starting point that will launch the sport into the Olympics. But, what is mixed climbing? It is ice climbing — with ice axes and foot spikes called crampons — without ice. Ice climbing, essentially, on rock. It was popularized in 1995 in Vail, Colo., as a means to an end — when the ice doesn't flow all the way down, climb the rock to get to the ice. The reason Adam Markert thinks mixed climbing should be an Olympic sport is because spectators in every country with TVs tuned to the games will see it, maybe start thinking about it, talking about it and then, hopefully, doing it. Markert — school teacher by day, rock climbing coach by night and one of the competition's organizers — described climbing as a culture, and he wants it to grow. [Four Corners Daily Times]
Ojo Caliente near Santa Fe is a sought-after destination for locals: it's fabulous. Behind the Deadwood Convention Center there is a rock bench large enough for a slightly smaller open air hot water spa.

Drilling for hot water is not cheap, but investors would find that a well will produce enough hot water to ease pressure on the Maitland Drift filling the former Homestake Mine being dewatered for an underground laboratory.

Lead should take some advice from Hill City and Hot Springs.

Build it and they will climb it naked.

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

The concept appears to be advancing. Deadwood's Comprehensive Plan shows a desire for more recreation opportunities.