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Ice Climbing Ouray

Ice Climbing Near Ouray, Colorado

During the winter months, Ouray becomes an ice-climbing mecca.  You can typically ice climb in our area from December through mid-March. The Ouray Ice Park season follows these same months, under normal winter conditions. Backcountry locations may be available before December or after March, depending on conditions. For more information, give us a call, or contact one of the excellent guide services listed in this article.

Is Ice Climbing Safe?

Please note that, in regards to this article, the following assumption are made.
  • You've rock climbed before, and you have rock-climbing gear.
  • You are new to ice climbing, and you'll hire an experienced guide to assist you in your Ouray ice-climbing adventures.

  • If you plan to climb without a guide, you should know what you're doing, and this article not appropriate for your skill level.

With that said...

Is Ice Climbing Safe?
No. The best you can do is "safe-ish"
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What Equipment Will I Need?

To ice climb at any level, you'll need the appropriate clothing and ice climbing gear. Here's a list of the minimum requirements, assuming you're climbing with a guide.

  • Clothing. Use the typical base/mid/outer layer approach. Make sure the outer layer is breathable and waterproof or highly water resistant.
  • Gloves. Gloves need to provide dexterity and breathability, while being highly water resistant. Look for gloves specifically designed for ice climbing. Have more than one pair since they're going to eventually get wet.
  • Helmet. For ice climbing, choose a climbing helmet of shelled foam, with minimal ventilation (for warmth).
  • Harness. An ice climbing harness is made to fit over winter clothing, and has gear loops and ice clipper slots.
  • Mountaineering Boots. Specialized boots with rigid soles, waterproofing, and insulation. Mountaineering boots are expensive. Chances are you'll want to rent them.
  • Crampons. A set of metal spikes you attach to your mountaineering boots. Crampons have to fit your boots, so, if you're renting boots, rent crampons.
  • Ice Tools. You'll need a pair. Note that ice tools are specialized gear, and you cannot substitute ice axes. Ice tools are expensive, so you'll probably want to rent them. 

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Where Can I Ice Climb Near Ouray? 

Ouray Ice Park is one of the premier ice-climbing Colorado locations. Ice-climbers, from beginners to world-class athletes, visit the park to climb and compete, every year.

Located just 10 minutes from downtown Ouray, the ice park features a man-made ice wall, with over 200 routes. Water is piped down an Ouray gorge to create a variety of climbable ice sheets, ice pillars, and ice bulges. The park is one of the few parks in the world made exclusively for ice climbing. Regardless of your skill level, Ouray Ice Park is a place you can test yourself in a controlled environment, regardless of your ice-climbing skill level.

Each January, Ouray Ice Park holds the Ouray Ice Festival, a four-day Ouray ice climbing festival, during which the best ice climbers in the world compete for cash, prizes, and charities. If you're interested in seeing the best climbers in the world compete, the Ouray Ice Festival is the place to be.

Note that Ouray Ice Park does not sell or rent ice climbing gear, nor does the park have guides available. You'll need to hire a guide and rent gear prior to your arrival at the park. The good news is that the Ouray area has numerous excellent guides, with plenty of ice-climbing gear for rent. See our list, below, for details.

The Ouray Ice Park hours are typically: Mon. through Fri. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sat. to Sun. from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. You'll just need to check they're open for the season first.

 Backcountry Routes

Our area is filled with excellent Ouray ice climbing routes. Here area  few of our favorites.

Horsetail Falls
Horsetail Falls is a classic moderate route. The first pitch is approximately 140 feet. Peak Mountain Guides has a guided climb for this route.

Ames Ice Hose
Ames Ice Hose is considered one of the best ice climbs in Colorado. The first pitch is around 120 feet. If you're interested in this route, contact San Juan Mountain Guides.

Stairway to Heaven
Located a short distance from Ouray, in Silverton, Colorado, Stairway to Heaven is a classic moderate route. The first pitch is about 60 feet. Contact San Juan Mountain Guides for more information on this route.

What Ouray Ice Climbing Guides Are Available?

While the Ouray area has a number of excellent guide services, two of the best are Peak Mountain Guides and San Juan Mountain Guides. You can book Ouray ice climbing lessons with them using the information below.

Peak Mountain Guides (The Peak Guide House, in Ouray)
  • Address: 311 Main Street, Ouray Colorado 81427
  • Phone: (970) 325-7342
  • Email:
  • Website:

San Juan Mountain Guides
  • Address:710 Main Street, Ouray Colorado 81427
  • Phone: (970) 325-4925
  • Email:
  • Website:

bear paw


Truly amazing place. 1st, the very small town of Ouray (U-Ray) could nt be cuter or more charming. Don't miss out on the hot springs. The Ice Park is a winter wonderland. My 1st tme trying the sport & I'm hooked. Multiple routes to explore with a qualified guide. It's free but be sure to become a member. I will definitely be back next year!
Ouray Ice Park. gaylej459, TripAdvisor
This was a truly other worldly and a very unique experience!!!! Everyone was super friendly which was helpful since it was our first time. We went during the international ice climbing competition which was beyond exciting. The vertical cliffs are sprayed with water which freezes and becomes a playground for the most amazing athletes! There is also one area prepared for beginners to learn on. All in all you just have to see this to believe it!...
Ouray Ice Park. travelgirl93463, TripAdvisor
We rented helmets for the via ferrata from San Juan Mountain Guides and they were super helpful and friendly, making sure we had a map and checking that our other gear would meet the requirements. Easy after hours drop off too!
San Juan Mountain Guides. legg02. TripAdvisor
I am new to climbing but have been on a lot of guided tours for other outdoor activities in Colorado. Spence with Peak Mountain Guides was the best guide we have ever had. Climbing for newbies can be stressful but Spence kept us safe and kept us cool so we could really enjoy ourselves. My daughter and I created memories that will last a lifetime.
Peak Mountain Guides. Mike F. TripAdvisor

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