Photo courtesy Dan Chehayl
Chatter about the world’s top ice climbing spots will always circle back to Ouray, a sleepy town in southwestern Colorado where more than 20 years ago, a few visionary climbers started teasing streams of water down the walls of a steep, shadowy gorge.
Since then Ouray Ice Park has blossomed into an ice climber’s dream-come-true, where ice farmers carefully tend hoses and showerheads to cultivate a mile-long network of magical ice.
Ice climbing is a delicate art of ascending frozen flows using ice tools and crampons. It’s slow and methodical, requiring careful pick and foot placement on ice formations that range from dangling fangs to chandeliers of fused icicles and lumpy mushrooms.
Learn how to give it a try in my Adventure 101: Ice Climbing in Ouray article on National Geographic Travel.
Earlier this week, I ventured to the Ouray Ice Park to try ice climbing for the first time. What a blast! Ascending the frozen walls, I was mesmerized by the beautiful, varied textures of the ice, and the chink chink sounds of my crampons and ice tools. The art of ice climbing is methodical and meditative, as you move one hand or foot at a time, tapping in holds. It’s challenging, fun, and so gratifying. I think I might be hooked! I have to give a big shout out to San Juan Mountain Guides for giving me a great introduction to the sport.
Next week is the Ouray Ice Festival, a great chance to try ice climbing, hone your skills, or watch the pros. Read all about it in an article I wrote for RootsRated:
The Largest Ice Climbing Festival in North America
Big. Fat. Blue. The stuff of frozen dreams. For months, ice farmers have been carefully coaxing magical slabs, pillars, and fangs to life in preparation for the 20th annual Ouray Ice Festival, which takes place January 8-11, 2015, at the Ouray Ice Park in southern Colorado. Park workers are now scurrying around like elves, putting the finishing touches on plans for four days of ice climbing clinics, demos, competitions, and parties that will fire up everyone from ice junkies to newbies.