ICE GUIDING

Colorado is the premier state for ice climbing in the United States. Vail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Ouray/Silverton, and many other venues make up the Colorado Mecca. Our season for ice climbing is October through April. Because of the accessible elevations in RMNP, we start climbing on October and climb all the way through April and into June on the alpine ice climbs (see the Alpine page). Vail and Ouray are best December through early March.  All of these areas offer terrain that is suitable for beginners to experts.

 

Compared to Vail and Ouray, RMNP mostly offers more of a backcountry ice climbing experience with longer approaches, less people (usually), and incredible views. The longer you hike, the less people you will see, and the more virgin the ice will be.





VAIL, CO


Vail offers mostly single-pitch, high quality ice and mixed climbs, many of which are world-famous, and some of which are the hardest in the world. Weekends can be crowded, but the amount of ice available usually allows everyone to have a good time.


Approach time: 30-50min


ALL MIXED UP


“AMU” is a 3-6 pitch ice route in RMNP. There are multiple variations, the easiest being WI4-. This is THE classic multi-pitch ice climb in The Park.  Later in the winter, avalanche conditions can make AMU a dangerous undertaking. November through January offer the safest conditions and the easiest approach – before the snow is too deep to hike in.


Approach time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours


BLACK LAKE


Off the Glacier Gorge trailhead in RMNP, Black Lake offers incredible backcountry multi-pitch ice climbs at moderate and advanced levels. Avalanche conditions can make some of the climbs a dangerous adventure – so choosing the right conditions is important. November through April.


Approach time: 2-3 hours


LOCH VALE

 

Having one of the shorter approaches in RMNP, Loch Vale is a single-pitch ice climbing area offering beginner and moderate ice routes. One must lead to set these climbs up on toprope. On weekends, this area can be crowded – it just depends on the given weekend.


Approach time: 50min


COLUMBINE FALLS


If you want excellent virgin ice and no crowds, this is the place to go! It is higher in RMNP, around 11,000ft, so if forms earlier in the season and gets colder than other venues as the season progresses. Late October, November and December are great! There are beginner to moderate single pitch climbs and moderate multi-pitch options. Climbing underneath the East Face of Longs Peak is incredible!


Approach time: 2 hours


GRACE FALLS


In Odessa Gorge in RMNP lies this incredibly beautiful icefall with gorgeous surroundings. In the early season, it forms a thinner column of WI4 and as the winter progresses, it gets fatter and fatter…and easier. It can be climbed as one or two pitches. Because of the longer hike, you will unlikely see anyone else here.


Approach time: 1.5 - 2 hours

OURAY, CO


Ouray is the center of American ice climbing with the Ice Park a short walk from the center of town, a plethora of multi-pitch climbs and cragging areas close to town, and the considerable amount of backcountry multi-pitch ice climbing near Silverton. Multiple options for hot springs exist right in the town of Ouray. The only challenge with Ouray is how far it is from larger cities and airports.


Approach time: 6 hours from Denver; 1 minute to 2 hours from the trailheads