From all over the world, they come to Telluride, Colorado. They come with axes, helmets, harnesses, and crampons. They come in search of some of the most beautiful alpine scenery that does exist. They come in search of ice.
Ice climbing in Telluride truly is revered by experts in the field. With many incredible, forever-memorable opportunities in the Telluride area, ice climbers can explore several different winter routes, including the tallest waterfall in the state of Colorado. It’s true. Bridal Veil Falls has 365 vertical feet of ice to climb in the Telluride winter, and it’s one of the most esteemed and challenging climbs in the United States. While it remained closed for years, it has been reopened to the public since 2008.
Bridal Veil Falls is more of an expert experience, but Telluride doesn’t limit winter climbs to only the advanced. In fact, other options exist in the San Juans that include guided climbing adventures. For those that have never climbed ice ever, or who have never even considered giving it a try, there are private half-day lessons that introduce beginners. Check out The San Juan Outdoor School or Telluride Alpinism. At anywhere from $125 for four or more people to $250 for a single client, new ice climbers can start to learn belay skills as well as learn the gear. Beginners can see the different ways to climb ice and experience the fundamentals of climbing. These are four hours long (though full-day options are available) and led by a professional climber. Digital photos are included of the adventure. These guided trips have a ratio of climbers to guide that never exceeds 4:1. This means you will definitely get the attention and focus of the expert and are never left on your own to figure things out.
Reservations can be made online, and all required clothing for the outing is listed clearly. See tellurideadventures.com. The San Juan Outdoor School does provide all technical climbing gear needed for the climb. For the more experienced ice climbers there is Chamonix Alpine Adventures. Based out of Ophir, Colorado, just up the road from Telluride, they offer climbs in Telluride at Bridal Veil Falls and at the Ames Ice Hose. Chamonix Alpine Adventures offers 3-day courses in December, January, February, and March for intermediate and advanced ice climbers. Reservation requests can be made online at chamonixalpineadventures.com.
Let’s not forget Ouray, next door. With the world’s first ice climbing park, Ouray offers 80-200 foot waterfalls all along a mile-long stretch, which can be accessed December to March. Here, the annual Ice Climbing Festival happens every January, and the world’s best show up for it. While ice climbing is celebrated by the experts in the Telluride area, all levels are welcome to see for themselves what the adventure can be like.
Weather in the San Juans is always changing, though, and preparedness is key. Having a professional guide means having someone else stay aware of safest routes, weather issues, and gear.