Climb Like a Local: Ouray Ice Park

Categories: Climb Like a Local

Known as the "Switzerland of America," the stunning Ouray, Colorado is home to the infamous Ouray Ice Park. After getting a taste of this ice climber’s paradise, with its 200+ ice and mixed routes, you'll be spoiled for life.

Ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado Photo: Ouray Ice Park | © Kennan Harvey

Ouray Ice Park Atmosphere: The park is swarming with ice climbing legends, many of whom have been around since the park’s early days. Don't be surprised if you find yourself climbing right next to the badass who put up the route you’re on. Make no mistake, this town takes its ice climbing seriously, but it also seriously welcoming to newcomers. If you've never ice climbed before, or are looking to up your ice climbing game, be sure to check out the annual Ouray Ice Festival in January. Ice climbers gather from across the country to attend clinics, demo the year’s newest gear, and experience mountain town nightlife. Whether you are a beginner ice climber or have decades of experience, the Ouray Ice park is welcoming to all.

Avoid the Crowds at the Ouray Ice Park: With three miles stacked with climbable terrain, there’s plenty of ice to go around. Moderate crags like the Schoolroom fill up fast on weekends, so be ready to roll when the park opens at 7:30am to avoid waiting in line. Be sure to check out the South Park area, which sees way less traffic than the more central crags.

Local Pet Peeve: Showing up before the park opens or staying after close, leaving ropes up for too long, and monopolizing too many routes with a giant group. At the Ouray Ice park, some spots are better suited for each skill of ice climber. For beginner ice climbers, the schoolroom and kiddie area are a great place to start, with easy access to top ropes and paths down to the bottom. For advanced ice climbers, the lead only area, Pick of the Vick, has the longest and steepest ice in the park.

Ouray Ice Park Gear: Need to bolster your ice climbing rack? We recommend heading to Ouray Mountain Sports, where they can outfit you with everything you need for a day out in the park. (Pro tip: If you head to Ouray during the Ice Festival you can usually check out gear from all of the outdoor companies) Still nervous about ice climbing? San Juan Mountain Guides will take you out to the ice park, outfit you with all the gear you need, and teach you how to set up a top rope and give you the basics on ice climbing technique.

Ouray Ice Park Risks: Unless you want to (literally) be a part of the next day's ice formations, we recommend being off the ice by 4:00pm. Spigots come on every afternoon to refresh and reshape the ice—the ice bath starts at 4:00pm in the center of the park and works its way outward. And watch out for exposed irrigation pipes so you don't disturb them with crampons, tools, or running ropes.

Who Has Your Back at the Ouray Ice Park? The Ouray Ice Park is responsible for this fantastic climbing resource.

Ouray Ice Park Pro Tip: Driving into Ouray is like opening a 'choose your own adventure' book. Where you stay, what you eat, your watering hole, the style of climbing, and how many friendly and incredibly colorful people you meet is all up to you. The second that you think you have the place figured out, think again...there is always a next page. ~Ryan Vachon, Winner of the 2016 Ouray Mixed Climbing Competition

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