Trip Report    

Water Ice Field Trip 1 - Ouray Ice Park

In Feburary 2023 three instructors and six students traveled to Ouray Colorado for three days of water ice climbing. During the day the party split into two groups and climbed at the east end of the park at the School Room, New Funtier, South Park, and Upper Bridge Wall crags. In addition to climbing participants gathered for evening discussions on crampon setup and tool sharpening.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • School Room is relatively close to the park entrance and provides quick access to a variety of longer pitches (bring a 70M rope) with bolted anchors spaced along the metal walkway.  Routes at the far end of the walkway are relatively moderate (WI2 & WI3) and tend to be well formed.  Routes towards the middle and near end of the walkway are generally steeper (WI4 & WI5) and are potentially mixed rock and ice.  If it’s your first time at Schoolhouse try to grab one of the anchors at the far end, build an extended anchor to get your powerpoint away from the pipes, carefully lower the ends of your rope to the bottom, and then follow the trail to the bottom.

    School Room
    School Room

    Routes at New Funtier are generally shorter and moderate making for a good first day at the park.  There are a few gully routes, a few rambly routes, and the occasional steeper route. Anchors here are usually concrete pads with hangers and are located well away from the lip.  The standard solution here is a 20M length of static rope or 8mm cord.  The park has a good demo of a flexible anchor setup that works well for this situation:


    New Funtier
    New Funtier

    South Park offers routes of varying length and difficulty.  Routes tend to be shorter at the near end but get longer as you move east. (take note of the rosette orientation on park maps)  South Park is also a bit farther from the entrance so it’s a good option if you want to get away from the crowds, although it’ll probably still be packed on busy weekends.

    South Park
    South Park


    The group also managed to get a few pitches in at the Upper Bridge Wall, which is the crag at the gate entrance and is visible from the bridge.  These routes are the longest in the park (up to 150’) and steep (WI3+ to WI5).  These routes sometimes fork and wander so climbers must be ready to negotiate terrain features (caves, overhangs, etc.) while trying to stay near the fall line.  At Pic O’ the Vic climbers must be lowered from the top and climb out, so be sure to practice safely lowering a climber and have a game plan for communicating when to convert from lower to belay (radios can help here).  Most anchors are newly installed metal tripods with a plate at the top providing multiple clip-in points.   We found a grigri hanging off of a quad to be a good solution here. Make sure to have an extra carabiner clipped to the anchor plate for a belay strand redirect, this allows you to properly control the rope.  Here are some links on lowering from a GriGri on a fixed anchor and the new metal anchors:



    Upper Bridge Wall
    Upper Bridge Wall

Note: the 2024 Intro to Water Ice and Intro to Leading Water Ice courses are in the process of being posted.  Tentative dates are Jan 7-9 for top rope and Jan 12-14 for lead.  Ice course applications will be accepted Nov 1-15.

The Ouray Ice Park

The Ouray Ice Park spans roughly two miles of the Uncompahgre Gorge, which is just a short drive/walk from the town of Ouray.   Each night water is sprayed into the gorge forming more than 150 distinct routes, many of which have easily accessible top rope anchors.  Easy access combined with a high density of routes provides for a unique opportunity to climb many pitches of ice in a short time.

Recent developments:

Although entrance to the park is free to the public there is a new optional membership.  Park membership provides a variety of benefits including 30 minutes of early park entry which can be useful on busy weekends.

There is a new lead-only area called Two Eyed Dog between New Funtier and South park.  Some of these routes are on the moderate side (WI2+ and up) which provides a welcome alternative to the steeper lead-only routes found elsewhere in the park.  This new crag also provides a way of moving between New Funtier and South Park without having to hike or climb to the rim of the canyon.

In 2021 the walkway above the School Room area was destroyed by rockfall but has now been rebuilt.  White traversing the walkway you will want to clip your personal anchor into a metal cable that runs along the walkway, so while you are putting on your harness and crampons at the park entrance you might as well get your PA ready too.

One last thing, if you decide to visit the park take some time to read the rules and etiquette page: