Pronounced ‘you – ray’ there is no better place in the world to learn how to climb steep cascade ice than the Ice Park in Ouray Colorado.
Due to a unique set of environmental circumstances this area of the San Juan range of the Rockies enjoys perfect conditions for the formation of ice and comfortable day time temperatures in which to climb. Essentially it is cold at night and relatively warm during the day. As with any mountain area there can be huge variations but on the whole the weather and the ice is predictable.
It is to ice climbing what Kalymnos is to sport climbing.
How much does it cost?
At first glance it might seem quite expensive but even at 2014 prices if you share accommodation and vehicle hire you should be able to do two weeks for about £1500 all in. Once you apply a bit of simple maths and divide the cost by the distance you will climb, it’s perfectly feasible to climb over a mile of vertical ice in a fortnight ) it turns out to be great value for money.
The Ice Park manager flew over to Scotland , Twice!, to climb on the Ben and on both occasions the weather crapped out, sound familiar?
So his experience cost him thousands of dollars and no ice climbed.
Why is it so good?
Because you can acquire the essential ice climbing skills in relative safety. In the Ice Park there are more than a hundred routes that have either bolted or tree anchors and it is common practice to top rope routes as you learn the basics.
You don’t have to top rope, you can lead climb anywhere in the ice park.
Other climbing areas
Ouray is very close to some world class ice climbing in the surrounding back country. For example, It is perfectly feasible to drive to Eureaka and climb a three hundred metre frozen waterfall and be back in your accommodation before it gets dark.
Any other activities in the area?
One of the worlds top ten ski resorts, Telluride, famous for its powder snow, is only an hours easy drive away. It is also the location for one of the worlds most famous ice climbs, Bridal Veil Falls.
There is also extensive Ski Touring in the surrounding area.
Ouray is blessed with fun things to do and when your muscles are aching after a hard day on the ice there are the non sulphurous hot springs in which you can soak away your aches and pains whilst looking at the surrounding winter scene.
The simplest way is to fly to Denver and then hire a vehicle ( 4wd if you want to go in the back country ) and drive to Ouray. Drive time Denver to Ouray approximately 6 hours depending on the state of the roads.
There are internal flights from Denver to Montrose, which is fifty miles from Ouray, but they are very expensive and you still have to hire a vehicle when you get to Montrose.
There are several motels in Ouray but do you really want to stay in a motel for a fortnight? (it’s not worth making the journey for a week as you spend two days travelling in each direction. ) There are several Condo’s for rent and if you go with a small party they offer good value for money. Try this for a start, they are very helpful. Ouray Vactaion Rentals.