Ice Climbing - Ouray Colorado

At the urging of my friend Mitch Chapman, Mitch, Dave Ruel and myself decided to give ice climbing a try. My wife Sandy is my official climbing trip photographer, so the 4 of us went to Ouray Colorado in February 2001.

Ouray is a small town located in south western Colorado, near the airport of Montrose (3 whole gates) and the ski resort of Telluride (don't forget to bring your Visa card). Ouray is an old mining town that hosts hot springs, innumerable old mines and jeep trails, and the Uncompahgre River Gorge, home of one of the only ice climbing parks in the world.

The ice park uses overflow water from the towns artesian wells to form man made ice flows. These ice flows cover the canyon walls to form ice climbs that range from 80 to over 150 feet in length. The numerous bolted top anchors and trees within easy top anchor distance from the wall make for a perfect place to learn ice climbing.

We stayed in the wonderful Box Canyon Lodge, which is located at the northern end of the ice park, with climbing literally less than a 5 minute walk away. The lodge also features 4 outdoor natural hot spring fed hot tubs, perfect for recovering from the days exercise. While the town is small, it does host a good outdoor shop, Ouray Mountain Sports, a great Mexican resturant, Bien Tiempo, and a FANTASTIC breakfast place, the Mountain Garden Resturant.

Mitch had attended the 2000 Ouray Ice Festival, but this was the first time ice climbing for Dave and myself, so we decided to take a beginning ice craft class.

Between the ice climbing, the day of snowboarding, the hot tubs, the food, and the good friends, this made for a perfect vacation.

For a more detailed trip report, click here. For a rock climber's impression of ice climbing, click here.

Ok, enough of the words, here are the pictures. Click on the thumbnails for larger views. Dave's pictures are at and Mitch has pictures online at

The Box Canyon Lodge, and just one of the great views from the town. More views from the hotel area.
The box canyon lodge is less than a 5 minute walk to the lower end of the gorge. Mitch and Andy suited up and anxious to climb. Mitch Chapman on the first route of the day, in the school room area. We first did this climb without ice axes to force us to concentrate on footwork.
Mitch on a climb in the lower gorge. This one was less vertical, but had thinner ice which could be more difficult.
Mitch in the school room area on the second day. Note all the ropes in the picture, you can tell just how busy the gorge gets, and this was on a Monday when the crowds weren't as bad. Mitch is the middle of the 3 climbers. Dave in the afternoon of day 1.
Dave Ruel. Another viewpoint of the same climb. Dave in the school room the morning of the second day.
This was the most challenging climb of our class. A 150 foot WI4 climb just south of the second bridge in the upper gorge area. You lower into the gorge and there is no walk out, you have to climb. Dave on the same climb. Dave again.
Andy Welter in the afternoon of the first day. Andy. Morning of the second day.
Andy on the big 150 foot climb.
Black Canyon
This section of the gorge was very shaded, so the ice at the bottom was very cold and hard, making tool placement more work than the other warmer climbs. On our way back to the airport, we detored over to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park. With Canyon walls up to 2000' long, this may be an interesting climbing destination sometime.

Back Last Updated: February 18, 2001