Colorado is such a gem. There’s no shortage of awesome things to do, incredible places to see and the best people to spend time with. #Coloradocations are one of my favorite things to do over a long weekend for exactly those reasons. When a trip to Ouray, CO was suggested for the long New Year’s weekend, Alex and I hardly thought twice before jumping in.
It’s a long but beautiful 6 hour trek to Ouray in southwest Colorado. Leaving around lunch time, the hours passed quickly with podcasts and naptime; we rolled up to our VRBO rental just after 6:30 p.m. on New Years Eve.
With our friends Lucas and Nancy, Justin and Lauren, we made pizzas in the oven, played ‘drawception’ and toasted great friends and fresh hopes when the ball dropped at midnight.
The next morning, we set our sights on our first adventure of 2015: learning to ice climb at the Ouray Ice Park.
The Ouray Ice Park is a free park full of super fun ice climbing routes. Much of the ice is man-made and it’s an incredible sight to see. There are more than 200 named routes and all sections are within a 10-15 minute hike from the park’s entrance.
As the park opened just the weekend before and we were there over the long New Years weekend, the park was pretty crowded. We were able to snag an anchor in the section called New Funtier. For this newbie, I was excited to hear that we could set up the anchor up top and hike down to the base. I was less excited when the hike down looked like this and included only a roped handrail. Talk about getting your attention!
The hike down was completely doable and looked a lot more intimidating than it really was, fortunately. Of the 5 of us climbing, 4 of us were relatively new to ice climbing but we found it easy to pick up. Unlike rock climbing, ice climbing is a ‘pick your own route’ type of climbing which makes it easy for climbers of all comfort levels to participate. Alex is a lot more fearless than I am and on the same rope, we were both able to climb routes that fit our comfort level.
We spent the afternoon climbing and called it a day when the park closed at 4 p.m., just as the water faucets turned on to make new ice overnight.
That night, we opted to spend our first night of 2015 soaking in the Ouray hot springs. After spending a day in a chilly, snowy canyon, the hot springs were a welcome warm up.
It was hard to pass up a day exploring the town of Ouray – popping into shops, indulging in local ice cream. Such a perfect day relaxing and recouping from a whirlwind few months and busy holiday season.
On our last full day in Ouray before heading home, we debated driving out to Telluride for a day of skiing (my most favorite skiing!) or hitting the ice park again. Climbing won (no hour long drive, no lift ticket expense) and we grabbed our harnesses and helmets for some laps on the ice.
Don’t mind my terrified look. I was mere feet of the ground but couldn’t find a hold for my foot…mini-panic moment.
While I’m not the most comfortable ice climbing, I certainly enjoyed the experience. The Ouray Ice Park is one of a kind and really incredible to experience; I’m so glad we made the trip!
To note: If you don’t have the necessary ice climbing gear, there are a few shops in town that rent crampons and ice tools. I haven’t yet bought my own crampons so I rented a pair both days from Ouray Mountain Sports ($20) and Peak Mountain Sports ($15). There are also beginner seminars at the ice park and an intro wall where you can take a lap on a much smaller route than in the canyon. There truly is something for everyone – only requirement is a positive attitude, some gear and a love of winter!