Wield an Axe in Ouray

Get in one last ice climbing session before the season ends

Mar 11, 2012
Outside Magazine

The Sell: Warm temperatures and manicured routes at the world’s biggest farmed ice park.
The Grit:
Escape the heat and head to Colorado’s Ouray Ice Park, deep inside the San Juan Mountains, to climb Uncompahgre Gorge’s 40-to-200 foot-tall walls. Don’t worry about getting bored; there are hundreds of novice, intermediate, and advanced fatty blue frozen flows. While March brings warmer weather, consistent overnight watering by ice famers reform flows, allowing for pristine spring climbing conditions on the park’s three miles of vertical terrain. Experts should warm up on the School Room wall and then head to the Upper Bridge area to tackle the park’s most photographed route, the iconic WI4+ Pick of the Vic, a 160-foot-long climb directly across from the Upper Bridge. Need lessons? Sign up with San Juan Mountain Guides. For $160 per person, the 20-year-old outfitter provides harnesses, helmets, crampons, boots, and axes as well as expert guiding on the park’s 14 distinct climbing areas and 200 ice and mixed routes. Join the locals at Backstreet Bistro for breakfast omelets. Each eve, warm up tired muscles at Orvis Hot Springs, a $14 clothing-optional dip nine miles north of Ouray. Afterwards, order a house beer at local drinking hotspot Ourayle House Brewery; the quirky late-night brewmaster is known around town as Mr. Grumpy Pants for his gruff but lovable demeanor. End your nights at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs (beginning at $89), where the hotel’s four private redwood tubs are fed by local mineral hot springs.
The Verdict:
There is no better spring break hot spot for ice climbers.

Filed To: Colorado

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