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A Beginner’s Guide to Ice Climbing in Estes Park

12/21/2020 | by Lyles Armour | Local Activities Outdoor Activities

Winter in Estes Park offers just as many outdoor activities as it does in the summer. From cross country skiing and snowshoeing to tubing and even ice climbing. The sport of climbing is a popular activity in the area, in both the summer and winter. It’s a sport you can get a lot out of and pick up somewhat quickly. If it’s your first time, get started with our beginner’s guide to ice climbing in Estes Park.

What is ice climbing?

Ice climbing is the sport of roped climbing on features including icefalls, frozen waterfalls, and cliffs where ice forms from flowing water. Because of Estes Park’s high elevation, long cold seasons, and plenty of world-class ice from Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers plenty of ice climbing opportunities.

The gear

If you are just starting out ice climbing in Estes Park, renting your gear is most likely your best bet. There are many places in Estes Park that are equipped with ice climbing rental gear. Basic gear that is needed to begin includes:

  • Helmet
  • Waterproof boots that are still and crampon-compatible
  • Crampons (with steel points that are vertically oriented)
  • Ice tool
  • Harness
  • Rope (dry-treated)
  • Belay device
  • Headlamp
  • Pack

What to wear

As always with the weather in Colorado, layers are key, especially when ice climbing in Estes Park. Prepare to bring a good base layer, insulated mid-layer, a waterproof shell, warm gloves, and a warm puffy jacket when you are belaying and not moving!

Not a fan of the cold? Discover our guide to rock climbing in Estes Park for those summer vacations.

Understanding ice climbing ratings

Before you decide on a route, be sure you understand the grading system used to identify levels of difficulty. Ice climbing grades factor in details such as steepness, how technical moves are, quality of ice, and the amount of protection you can place. Beginner’s probably should stick to WI-2 to WI-4, with more advanced climbers tackling WI-5 and WI-6s. Hidden Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park is a great beginner climb to start with.

Intro to ice climbing classes

There are several local businesses in Estes Park that offer ice climbing lessons for those who are true beginners and even intermediate skill levels. Colorado Mountain School offers a full-day class for just $269! That is eight hours of instruction, equipment orientation, and hands-on practice for the first time. The Kent Mountain Adventure Center also offers an intro to ice climbing course that will have you ascending some iced waterfalls by the end of the day.

Stay at Rocky Mountain Resorts

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Complete your Estes Park adventures with a stay at one of our cabins, condos, or vacation homes at Rocky Mountain Resorts. Located in the heart of Estes Park and near Rocky Mountain National Park, your rock-climbing adventures aren’t far away!

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