Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ice Ice Baby

About a week and a half ago, we turned our horses loose on their winter pasture, about 12 miles from us.   It is at the same altitude we are here at the lodge, about 8500 feet. The day we let them go was the last time we have seen temps above freezing.  It was also the last day we saw winds of less than 20 mph.  And it's snowed a foot or so.  In fact we have had 50 mph winds with sub zero temperatures.  It has been DARN cold.

When we go visit the horses, they seem to be accusing us of sending them to a horrible place, and it's hard to explain to them that it's just as cold at home.

DARN cold.

We had a faucet left dripping in the tub on the 2nd floor last week.  We found it when Juanita heard a dripping sound near her puzzle table.  A slow drip going down a sewer pipe on the outside of a log building will freeze to the inside of the pipe.  So will the next drip. And the next.  Etc. etc. etc...  Finally the whole 4 inch cast iron pipe will fill with an ice plug from the ground floor up.  This will only happen if there are no guests in the room for a week so no gushes of water warm and melt the ice stuck to the walls of the pipe.  And it will only happen if the "heat tape" warming the iron pipe on the outside of the lodge fails.  And it will only happen if it is DARN cold.


At first I tried going outside to replace the heat tape on the pipe.  On a ladder.  In the wind.  In the sub zero temperatures.  I can not be taught, but I can be trained.  There just have to be consequences.

I froze.
(It's actually a LOT colder than it looks.)

I decided there had to be a way to thaw things from the inside.  So I pulled the toilet off the floor, ran a garden hose running hot water from the tub down the sewer pipe and used a shop-vac to suck up the return water as it came to the top of the pipe where the toilet had been mounted.  Over the course of a couple days, I melted my way inch by inch down the ice clogged pipe.

SUCCESS!  The water went away without the shop-vac!  It went down the drain!  So I reinstalled the toilet. (I had to change the tank-to-bowl bolts and gasket and the bowl-to-floor bolts and gasket.  They were... elderly.)

Ah... but wait.  How about the plumbing to the room NEXT to the frozen pipe?  Sure enough, it's drainage had been plugged by the sewer pipe "down stream" so the SECOND bath had a frozen sewer pipe.

So I got to pull the second toilet and start again.

Did I mention it takes a couple of days?

In a completely unrelated event, yesterday morning at 3:am, the power went out.  Wind and sub-zero temps, you know.  It was out for about 4 hours.

Do you remember what I said about heat-tapes that don't function?  That things will freeze up if the pipe is cold and unused?  Yep, a pipe in part of a "loop" system froze.  As it is a loop, we didn't know it had frozen because water still flowed to all of the faucets.

A little after 5:am this morning, the pipe thawed.  Lying in bed, we heard water running. I said "Wait a minute.  We don't have any guests!  The water can't be running."  So I pulled on my jeans and ran downstairs and said  "Oh, dear.  Look at the water POUR down through 3 floors!  My, my, my." (or something like that).  "Good heavens!  And we have guests coming in tonight!"

The pipe had broken.  One whole joint had popped apart.  We shut the water off to the building, and broke out the buckets and shop-vac and towels.  I was out of plumbers solder, so I had to wait for the hardware store to open in Estes Park.

I fixed the broken joint and turned the water back on.  Water gushed out of another break in the pipe.  Turned of the water and fixed that break in the pipe.  Water on, water fall again.  Water off. And again.  Lather-rinse-repeat.

Four breaks in that run of pipe.  By the end of the day Juanita and I were both getting "twitchy" and jumping at any sound that was even remotely similar to water running.  But we got it done before our guests arrived.

Oh, wait.  The "upstream" room still has an ice plugged sewer pipe.

So, I went back to work on that.  Finally got that ice dam melted, only to find two more sinks that entered that pipe even further upstream from them were also frozen up.

It's almost 11:30 pm now, and I'm tired of messing with it.  I think I'll go to bed and work on it tomorrow.  No one is checking into that room for another couple days, so I'll wait until tomorrow to re-install the toilet and thaw the drains for the sinks.

Maybe tomorrow morning I'll drive over and see the horses for a bit.  You know, I think they have the right idea.

They just pee outside.



  1. Oh my god, what a nightmare. You can throw your hands in the air and come to Oakland, where we just have frost on our cars?

  2. Yeah, Bill . . . I'm not sure I would be waving my tender bits in the wind and cold you are experiencing. It only takes 15 seconds to freeze exposed flesh.

  3. Oh gosh! I'm glad your almost done fixing it all! Gotta love it when it gets this cold for this long. We had a power outage too, but it was luckily only for 2 hours about 5 pm (we are a little closer to the city then you, so I bet we get someone to fix it dispatched faster). We have a wood stove for heat, but of course our floor heat runs off a electric pump. We would have had frozen pipes too if it had been for longer or at night.


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