The Ouray Ice Park is a climbing mecca for ice climbers who are just starting out in the sport or those that have years of experience. Located just outside the charming town of Ouray, Colorado, this park presents numerous routes in the natural Uncompahgre Gorge that have any climber or spectator in awe of the incredible formations.
The routes are manmade and home to more than 200 ice and mixed climbs. The Ouray Ice Park is jointly owned and managed by the City of Ouray, the nonprofit Ouray Ice Park, Inc. (OIPI), and a mix of other private and public landowners. The park is free and open to public use. In order to maintain the ice park, the OIPI hosts the Ouray Ice Festival each winter to celebrate the park and raise funds for continued operation. This festival brings some of the top ice/mixed climbers from around the world to compete on this spectacular terrain.
One can never appreciate how wickedly beautiful this ice climbing park is unless you experience it firsthand. As you look over the edge in the gorge where the routes are, you can’t help but to be amazed at the complexity of the ice. It’s almost as if you’re entering a whole different realm as you make your way to the climbs.
Being cognizant while walking around the ice park is vital as you will either be walking under or over ropes and anchor chains of routes that have been set. Crampons become your best friend as you hike over some slippery and icy terrain, but you also have to be careful not to walk on the ropes. Helmets are also an absolute necessity as falling ice is expected while climbing the routes.
Thanks to money raised at the 2007 Ouray Ice Festival, an area above the gorge was established for beginning ice climbers in memory of Sue Knott and Karen McNeil, two renowned mountaineers that attempted a climb on Mount Foraker’s Infinite Spur route near Denali in Alaska back in 2006 but never made it back. The area is dedicated to other friends lost on the mountains as well. This wall is a great introduction for kids and beginners to ice climbing as the climbs are shorter and a descent into the gorge is not required.
If you’ve ever wanted to try out ice climbing, Ouray Ice Park is a great place to start. It can seem intimidating at times, but once you swipe those axes in the ice and kick those spikes from the crampons on a route and you accomplish it, it’s a great feeling. After that, you might just wonder why you hadn’t tried it sooner.
For more information on the Ouray Ice Park, visit their Web site. Ice climbing gear rentals can be made at Ouray Mountain Sports.
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