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Ice climbing park in Ouray Colorado with Mountain Madness

Ouray Ice Climbing is in!

You may hear a joke that goes some­thing like this; ice climb­ing is one per­son being scared and one per­son being cold.” While this can be the case when push­ing lim­its, ice climb­ing can also be a fun and most­ly com­fort­able way to expe­ri­ence the win­ter environment.

Writ­ten by MM guide Jesse Selwyn/​pho­tos below Sel­wyn collection/​image above by Anna Nicole Arteaga

Glanc­ing up high to see a frozen path cas­cad­ing down a cliff band can be as excit­ing as any untracked bowl of pow­der. Fol­low­ing the sound and feel­ing of ice tools find­ing sol­id place­ment in blue water ice often becomes addict­ing for those who give it a try. Then there’s the moun­tain doors that open once ice climb­ing is added to your skillset: the North Ridge of Mt. Bak­er, North Face of Shuk­san, the Moose’s Tooth in Alas­ka, Alpa­mayo in Peru, and many others.

approaching the Ouray ice park
Easy access and great ice with Mountain Madness guides in Ouray Colorado

Learn­ing to ice climb does require ice and lots of it. The best place to find an abun­dance of ice to climb at any dif­fi­cul­ty is in the small town of Ouray, CO. Sit­ting at the base of the San Juan Moun­tains in the south­west cor­ner of the state, Ouray is home to the world famous Ouray Ice Park. Start­ing in Novem­ber, the park’s mad sci­en­tists aka Ice Farm­ers, begin run­ning over 250 show­er­heads above the Uncom­pah­gre Riv­er Gorge to cre­ate over 150 ice climbs and is open from mid-Decem­ber through mid-March every year. There is ter­rain in the park to suit climbers at every abil­i­ty, be it their first time wear­ing cram­pons and hold­ing an ice tool to pro­fes­sion­als look­ing to test them­selves on ver­ti­cal ice pil­lars. It’s also an excel­lent place to spend a day brush­ing up on your skills before head­ing into the local back­coun­try to ascend some of the dozens of climbs that include world renown clas­sics such as Stair­way to Heav­en and Whore­house Hoses. 

Some Moun­tain Mad­ness cours­es and climbs for you in Ouray:

Cours­es — from begin­ner to advanced mixed rock and ice instruc­tion, we have it all for you

Guid­ed Ice Climb­ing — push your lim­its and tick off some area clas­sics with our guides

Ice climbing the frozen waterfall of Coloroado
Mixed rock and ice climbing in Ouray Colorado with Mountain Madness guides
The Five Fingers Ouray Ice Park

While small, Ouray’s hot springs, choco­late shop, brew­eries, and restau­rants pro­vide a great apres-climb atmos­phere. Then there is the Ouray Ice Fes­ti­val that occurs over 4 days in the sec­ond half of Jan­u­ary every year. This fea­tures clin­ics with guides and pro­fes­sion­al climbers, a mixed climb­ing com­pe­ti­tion, raf­fles, slideshows, and oth­er ice climb­ing relat­ed fun.

Need we say more!

Ice climbing in Ouray Colorado ice park and backcountry with Mountain Madness
Advanced ice climbing in Colorado in Ouray and backcountry with Mountain Madness
Ouray hotsprings to soak in after ice climbing

Notes from a guide:

What’s the aver­age day look like when you come to climb in Ouray?

Most days begin around 7:30, when we’ll meet and go over gear to make sure every­thing fits and you’ve got enough warm lay­ers. After that, we’ll walk into the OIP and get to climb­ing! This usu­al­ly starts with a few laps on top-rope and basic instruc­tion to get the blood flow­ing before pro­gress­ing to more in depth train­ing depend­ing on your goals. We’ll wrap up around 3 or 4pm, then rest up for the next day!

What’s a Moun­tain Mad­ness guide’s favorite route to share with guests?

There’s a local, semi-secret climb named the Charmin Tube that is hid­den in a rock amphithe­ater just above town. It’s 2 long pitch­es sep­a­rat­ed by a hike in a slot canyon and a few small­er ice steps. Then we rap­pel back down. It’s a great intro to back­coun­try ice climbing!