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Winter Adventures: Ice Climbing in Telluride

Wednesday • December 5, 2018

Telluride may be known for its unbelievable skiing terrain and charming mountain town, but it also offers another fun activity often overlooked in the winter: ice climbing. While neighboring town Ouray generally gets most of the love for ice climbing, Telluride has plenty to offer for beginner, intermediate and experienced climbers. 

“The San Juans are generally on every ice climber’s bucket list for the sheer number of inspiring routes, access and quality of ice, as well as a wide variety of climbs from beginner flows to multi-pitch epics,” says Mountain Trip, Telluride’s local premier provider for mountain climbing expeditions and adventures. “Combine reliable cold temperatures with runoff, shade and steep gorges, and you’re bound to have good ice. Much of our terrain in this area is perfect for forming and holding ice throughout the winter.” 

Ice climbing may seem intimidating to anyone who hasn’t tried it (hanging off a sheet of ice from an ice pick might make mom put 911 on speed dial), but it’s more than accessible and safe for all ages and skill levels.  

“We’ve taken out children as young as four, adults as old as 75, participants in Telluride Adaptive Sports and the Wounded Warriors Project and everyone in-between,” says Mountain Trip, the only AMGA-accredited guide service in Southwest Colorado.  

From beginner to expert and solo trips to guided tours, Telluride and its surrounding communities have everything you need and more to embark on an unforgettable ice climbing adventure. 

WHERE TO GO

Telluride’s waterfalls are a stunning attraction in the summer, but they’re equally as amazing in the winter. The best part about the waterfalls in Telluride is that you don’t have to go very far to access all different types of terrain ranging from beginner to expert. 

“Perhaps the most accessible beginner’s climbing is at lower Ames,” Mountain Trip says. “There are two flows of ice to which we typically take first-time climbers, one of which is low angle enough that virtually anyone will have success their first try and will have a good opportunity to practice technique.”

Anyone looking for a step up can take on Bear Creek Falls, which has vertical climb routes accessible via a rappel into a gorge. For the more experienced ice climber, Ingram Falls, Ames Ice Hose, and Bridal Veil Falls all offer “huge exposure, overhanging sections and multiple pitches,” Mountain Trip adds. 

If you’d like to check out a classic, the Ouray Ice Park is a world-class destination for ice climbers from all over the world. 

“The nearby Ouray Ice Park is known worldwide by alpinists for its hundreds of technical routes, kept in near-perfect condition throughout the winter by ice “farmers”, who supplement the natural flows with runoff piped in from nearby Ouray," Mountain Trip says.

No matter where you choose to go, your experience will be one you won’t forget for a long time. 

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

One thing is for sure – you need a lot of equipment for ice climbing.

When you book an ice climbing excursion with Mountain Trip, they provide all of the equipment needed to successfully complete a climb. They pride themselves on having the latest and greatest equipment to help everyone complete a climb safely. 

“Ice climbing equipment has seen huge improvements over the decades,” Mountain Trip says. “We keep our fleet of equipment as up-to-day as possible with the changing technology each year.”

They generally provide a treated 60-70 meter rope for winter climbing, a harness rigged with ice screws, a belay/rappel device and plenty of cord and carabiners, crampons for vertical ice climbing, climbing helmet and two ice climbing axes. All technical gear and warm drinks are included in guided tours, while base layers and other warm clothes, such as a waterproof shell, neck warmer and gloves, must be brought by those embarking on a tour. 

For those looking to ice climb on their own, most of the technical equipment needed can be rented from Jagged Edge

“Hand-warmers, plenty of snacks and hot drinks can be helpful to make being out in the cold for extended hours much more enjoyable,” Mountain Trip says. “In short, it’s definitely a gear-intensive sport, and it’s generally inevitably cold, but the right equipment makes all the difference.”

WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT

Ice climbing is unlike anything you’ll ever try (with the exception of rock climbing) and Telluride is one of the best places to try it. Sure, skiing is great and all, but why not switch things up on an off day and try a unique experience?

“Mixing up your typical ski vacation by trying something new (and maybe a bit out of our comfort zone) is certainly a positive thing,” Mountain Trip says. “And overall, it’s just a unique experience to be climbing on frozen water.

“An added bonus is that the ice climbing locales around this area are incredibly beautiful and provide a fun challenge accessible to the whole family.”

Thinking about adding ice climbing to your winter itinerary? Book today and reserve your spot to go on this epic adventure!