WHERE TO CLIMB
Estes Park, Colorado is headquarters to Rocky Mountain National Park. And at a 7, 522-ft. altitude, it has some of America’s best natural ice columns to climb. From mild routes for beginners to challenging ascents for experts, this is the place to do it. Colorado Mountain School, Estes Park’s sole concessionaire technical guiding company, will take you to the best areas all over the park. Here are three of our favorites:
Jewel Lake—Access via the Glacier Gorge trailhead, 3.5-mile approach
Jewel Lake isn’t very tall, but it’s wide, which is ideal for beginners trying a bunch of lower, mildly-inclined routes. Once you get the hang of it, you can graduate to more difficult courses right on the same hunk of ice.
Hidden Falls—Access via the Wild Basin trailhead, 1.5-mile approach
Hidden Falls is popular for ice climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park because it has a fairly short hike up, and tons of routes ranging from easy to hard (50-90 feet in height).
Loch Vale—Access via the Glacier Gorge trailhead, a 2.0-mile approach
Loch Vale is famous for its mixed climbing terrain—it has both ice and rock—to keep your climb freshly challenging. Climbers generally use ice-climbing gear over the combination of surfaces to reach the top.
GEAR YOU NEED
Like any sport, give ice climbing a trial run before you invest in a bunch of expensive gear. Colorado Mountain School rents out the equipment you’ll need to get you started. To ensure safe equipment, guides will check functionality and fit you properly before you hit the trail. In addition to all your warm winter layers and snow apparel, you’ll need: a harness, helmet, boots, crampons, ice tools, pack, belay device, and a few locking carabiners.