A paradise for climbers and outdoor enthusiasts, the Ouray Ice Park is a human-formed ice climbing park in southwest Colorado. Located in the old mining town of Ouray, an hour from Telluride, the Ouray Ice Park is nestled in the gorge of the Uncompahgre River.
Whether you are flying for hours to visit or on a Colorado road trip, the Ouray Ice Park is worth a visit!
This unique climbing venue for the sport of ice and rock climbing features breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains, home to the Ute Native Tribe. This particular hub for ice climbers is managed and run by the nonprofit organization Ouray Ice Park, Inc., which works diligently to transform and maintain this excellent climbing area in the Uncompahgre Gorge.
How Ouray Ice Park Works
Throughout the 1-mile section of the gorge use for ice climbs, there are over 100 artificial ice and mixed climbs, 11 separate climbing areas, and 3 miles of vertical terrain. Since the Ouray Ice Park was founded over 20 years ago in 1994, the park has served as a worldwide climbing hot spot for travelers, nature lovers, and mountaineering addicts!
Starting in November, people called “Ice Farmers” use overflow water from the City of Ouray to turn on 250 sprinklers that create monstrous ice walls in the Uncompahgre wilderness. The water used at the park is the runoff, and a portion of the stored water is from the two 500,000 gallon tanks that hold the city’s water supply.
The water is fed by gravity to the park from the water tanks until it arrives in the vault near the Kid’s Wall. The colossal pipe (called a Penstock) has nothing to do with the park’s water supply. Still, it does transport the after from the south damn to a hydro facility at the park’s north end.
The Ouray Ice Festival
Every winter in January, for four nights, the city of Ouray becomes devoted to all things ICE. From ice climbing vets to first-time climbers to fans of the sport, travel from around the globe to celebrate their beloved sport. Daytime activities include demo-ing new ice tools, climbing gear, and apparel and having leading retailers vending at ice climbing exhibitions.
In addition to the expos, there are competitions between ice climbers to fight for the prize in both Elite Mixed and Speed Climbing. The Ouray Ice Festival also has more than a hundred educational clinics and workshops for every skill level. Everyone in town can be a part of the fun in some capacity.
When the sun goes down, and the crampons are put away, live music, multimedia presentations, dance parties, and auctions take control of the city. Over 160 volunteers from all over the world help this festival come to life!
How to Climb at Ouray Ice Park
The different areas for ice climbing in the park include the Gazebo Wall, Five Fingers, Scottish Gullies, Stump Wall, Lower Bridge, Between the Bridges, Kids Wall, Lead Area, Pic ‘O the Vic, Trestled and Mixed Alcove, School Room, New Funtier, South Park, and Deep South. Learn all about climbing in the backcountry of the San Juans here.
Hiring a mountain guide to take you through the park is highly suggested, especially for first-time ice climbs. Favorite guide companies include Peak Mountain Guides and San Juan Mountain Guides. Depending on the conditions, the following season at the park typically runs from mid to late December to mid-March. There is no minimum age to climb at the park if everyone is secured in crampons and a helmet. Ice axes are encouraged.
To reach the park next season, you can fly into Denver (5.5 hours), Montrose (1 hour), Grand Junction (2 hours), or Telluride (45 minutes). To contact the park, call 970.325.4288 or email [email protected] The park is located at PO Box 1058, Ouray, CO 81427.
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