Colorado Ice Climbing

The San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado are home to some of the most inspiring and classic ice routes in the US. Whether you are new to the sport and seeking instruction or a seasoned alpinist, we’d love to give you a taste of the ice outside our doors.

Mountain Trip is the only AMGA Certified Guide Service in southwestern Colorado.  We are also a permitted guide service in the world famous Ouray Ice Park. This unique venue hosts over 200 man-made ice routes located in the stunning Uncompahgre Gorge, just steps from downtown Ouray. Most routes are less than a 15-minute walk from the Park entrance. Routes are farmed from water pipes above the gorge and are therefore almost always in really good condition. Also known as Little Switzerland, Ouray is a Mecca for ice climbing, and is also famous for its hot springs. With easy access, routes of all grades, and hot pools to relax in after climbing, the Ouray Ice Park is one of the best places to learn how to climb ice on the planet. There is even an area for children to learn, so bring the whole family!

Mountain Trip also holds US Forest Service Permits to guide outside of Ouray, where we have access to routes that range from 100’ to 1,200 feet long! We can also facilitate getting you onto some of the long, alpine ice climbing routes near Silverton or Telluride as well.

We provide instruction in the latest techniques that will help you push yourself and improve as a climber and also guide hard, challenging routes. Emphasis on efficiency and how to organize your systems will help you build a foundation, which will help prepare you for your next big route or just help you have more fun with this exciting sport.

New to the sport?  No worries- we’ll provide all the climbing equipment, and you need only show up with your warm clothes for the day.  If you have your own gear, you’re free to use it or to try our gear, which is top of the line and the most current equipment available.

The following is a general list of required gear for ice climbing with Mountain Trip. Climbers joining us will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that may supersede this list.  In general, you want a selection of warm layers that can work together.  Clothing that works well for a day of skiing will work fine, but dedicated climbing clothing works better.

Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience in the mountains. Please plan ahead with equipment purchased for your trip so you can be certain that your gear fits you well.  Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides. We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion about anything you are considering. There is a good selection of gear available in Telluride and Ouray, and we have a good selection of loaner and rental gear, so just let us know what you might need.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing BootsTechnical routes or steep day climbs are often best climbed by wearing light weight, insulated boots. Waterproof and breathable, these give a climber more "feel" than do double boots. The caveat is that they are hard to keep dry over time, so certain double boots are better for technical alpine routes. Our favorite double boot for climbing technical routes is the La Sportiva Spantik. There are many great single boots on the market, and one of our favorites is the La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX.
GaitersAny height gaiters will work for most trips, but tall versions like Outdoor Research's "Crocodile Gaiters" are better for snow and for protecting your pants while ice climbing.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Soft Shell Wind JacketMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. If you are not getting rained on or experiencing wet snow, perhaps you do not need a waterproof jacket? We are huge fans of very lightweight softshell wind jackets for high, dry, cold peaks. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. A soft shell is a highly breathable layer that still cuts most, if not all of the wind, but is not as waterproof as a GoreTex shell. Some trips require a hard shell down low when you may experience rain or wet snowfall, but can be climbed using soft shells higher up on the mountain when you just need to cut the wind and keep a little snow off and can save you a half a pound or more. These soft shell jackets are not a substitute for a waterproof shell jacket, but can be very nice when your concern is wind and snow.
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your light puffy jacket layer. You do not need the burliest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions. Many people are climbing peaks such as Denali, Aconcagua and Everest using very lightweight, windproof, water resistant shells, rather than fully waterproof jackets. Other trips, such as Carstensz Pyramid and Ecuador, are notoriously wet and absolutely need waterproof layers.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece and wind shell. We are fans of the puffy Primaloft insulated jackets because they are lighter and warmer than thick fleece and compress down much smaller. A hood on this layer is mandatory.
Light Fleece TopYou'll want a light fleece top in a weight similar to Capilene 4 from Patagonia, or Powerstretch from Polartec. A rather deep zip t-neck really helps with ventilating and we are fans of a hooded version for this layer.
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) Synthetic layers work well, such as Capilene 2 or 3 from Patagonia. There are some really nice Merino wool options on the market as well. One set it sufficient for most expeditions and for overnight trips, however; the choice as to whether to bring a second set is a personal one, based on your level of comfort with wearing the same clothes for days or weeks at a time.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Hard Shell, Waterproof PantsIf there is a probability or good possibility of getting wet, you will need to have waterproof breathable pants. Also known as Hard Shell Pants, these should be as light weight as possible, and should have fully separating side zippers, so you can put them on and remove them over your boots. Gore Tex is commonly used, but there are a number of other materials that work fine. On some peaks, you might carry hard shell pants for the lower mountain, but switch to soft shell pants for the colder and drier upper mountain.
Soft Shell PantsWe are fans of soft shell pants for use in the mountains. Also known as stretch-woven pants, these are breathable and comfortable enough to wear day in and day out on most expeditions. They cut most of the wind and are water resistant, meaning you can often use them in place of waterproof (not very breathable) hard shell pants on many climbs. On peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, you can wear them in lieu of your hard shell pants for much of the expedition.
Light Fleece BottomsAs the air thins and the wind picks up, you'll want a bit more insulation on your legs. Light fleece bottoms, such as the Capilene 4 bottoms from Patagonia are breathable and have a broad comfort range, so you can wear them all day long, even if the sun pokes out from the clouds. If you tend to run cold, consider thicker fleece, such as Powerstretch from Polartec, which most outdoor clothing manufacturers also use.
Base Layer BottomsLightweight synthetic or Merino wool bottoms are a good choice for this layer. Synthetic seems to wick a bit better and is the choice of most of our guides, but Merino tends to be more fragrance-free, and many people appreciate that quality. One pair is sufficient for overnight climbs and most expeditions, even longer climbs such as Denali and Aconcagua. Everest climbers should bring two pair.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Medium Weight GlovesMid-weight gloves have become increasingly popular in recent years, gaining traction on the traditional heavyweight gloves as the go-to hand protection on many trips. Appropriate gloves generally have a soft shell exterior with light synthetic insulation .
Heavyweight GlovesWarm, insulated gloves are the day-to-day workhorses on cold peaks or for cold days of ice climbing. We prefer gloves with removable liners for ease of drying. It’s hard to stress how much you’ll be wearing these, so do not skimp on this item. Gloves should fit snugly, but not be too tight, and try them out before you purchase them, as some brand name gloves have pretty terrible dexterity.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing PackSuitable climbing packs will be 30 - 45 liters in volume and have the capability of easily attaching crampons, and ice axes if used for a day of ice climbing. For a day climbs, any pack in the 30 - 45 liter range will work, you should consider the weight of the pack carefully. . Alpine routes require larger (45L) packs that also let you strap your sleeping pad to the outside.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
CramponsSelect a pair of 10 or 12-point mountaineering crampons that fit your boots well. Mountaineering crampons will have horizontally oriented front points, rather than the vertically oriented ones used for ice climbing. Step-in or strap versions work equally well; just make sure they fit your mountain boots and overboots. Often, you will need to lengthen your crampons to accommodate your overboots. Please make sure you can make this adjustment in the field. Aluminum crampons are generally not acceptable for most of our expeditions. Note that the newer, stainless steel version is a lot lighter than its predecessor.
Climbing HelmetMake certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. We have seen a couple super-lightweight foam helmets get crushed in duffel bags bag during travel, so protect your lid!
Climbing HarnessYour harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. As with most items on this list, choose a light weight harness.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
SunscreenThe sun can be intense at altitude. Bring one small tube for use while climbing and one larger tube for use while not on route.
SunscreenThe sun can be intense in Colorado, so please apply high SPF sunscreen prior to your trip and bring a small tube along to reapply during the day.
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for climbers who must cancel climbs which they have planned for a long time. Climbers must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning climbs and contracting guides for specific dates, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in organizing a day of ice climbing. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all climbers. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all expeditions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• We require payment in full for all of our Colorado Ice Climbing trips.  Submission of payment constitutes your agreement to our Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• Any cancellation 7+ days before your scheduled date to climb will receive a 50% refund of all fees paid to Mountain Trip.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 7 days prior to your scheduled date for ice climbing.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel a climb prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that climb shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.


Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides

• Airport transfers provided by the Millennium Alaska Hotel

• Lunch is provided for all full-day ice climbing trips

• All necessary climbing equipment (ice tools, crampons, harness, climbing helmet, carabiners, belay/rappel devices, etc)

• Assistance arranging for post-climb activities in the area


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Travel to and from SW Colorado

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list (please, just ask us if you need anything!)

• Meals beyond the lunch provided each day

• Accommodation in Colorado

• Travel and/or rescue insurance

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the climbing area due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides

• Costs as a result of force majeure


General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for a climb with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on a climb in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Team Meeting Day for your climb. Transportation to the meeting point on your Team Meeting Day is to be provided by you, unless otherwise arranged with Mountain Trip. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your climb. This probably means you will need to arrive the day before, as it is often prudent to get an early start in the morning.  Climbing is very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination or how you might best arrange your travel to SW Colorado. If flying, we suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility.

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the climb and choosing a climb that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb.

While on the climb, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from a climb.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave a climb due to an illness.

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