The description of Colorado sites corresponds to the geographical zone covered by Jack Roberts’ topographical guide “Colorado Ice Volume I”, by Polar Star Publishing, Boulder, USA (http://www.jackrobertsclimbing.com/icebook.php). In situ photographs and information date from a trip made in January 2014.
International flights for Denver or Colorado Springs, then car hire. Domestic flights are available but they are expensive towards towns inside the Rocky Mountains: Vail, Grand Junction, Montrose, etc. With the exception of Ouray, which can be reached by bus, travelling to Colorado’s ice falls requires a car. Unless you fall upon appalling weather conditions, you don’t need to hire a four-wheel drive. However, you will need winter tyres and/or snow chains. They are even mandatory for certain passes and you can face a consequential fine. Generally speaking, roads and motorways are excellent, well-maintained and cleared, even if white in the winter. Travelling times, in normal winter conditions, from Denver to: Vail 2h; Glenwood 3h; Rifle 4h; Ouray 6h; Telluride 7h; Durango 7h.
This mountain range is subjected to the same tempo as the Alps: although the first frosty falls can be climbed as early as late October over a particularly early winter, the ice climbing season in the Rockies generally begins mid-December, to end late March. Certain high-altitude and northern lines can be climbed up to late April.
As far as we know, there is no up-to-date site on ice conditions in Colorado. http://www.mountainproject.com/ essentially contains accounts of climbing outings via which some information on conditions can be gleaned. >Colorado Avalanche Information Center :
geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche >Météo : weather.com ; accuweather.com
Tel: (303) 639 1111 ; www.cotrip.org
ACCOMMODATION, FOOD AND EQUIPMENT
All sites described are in the vicinity of a conurbation offering a range of accommodation and catering solutions (shops or restaurants). Motels are more expensive in skiing resorts – so driving a few miles further afield can prove profitable. In his topographical guide, Jack Roberts lists good value for money accommodation options for each spot popular among climbers. And if you tell them you are a climber, you can even benefit from a reduction of up to 20%. Worth a try, no? Technical equipment stores also abound and Jack’s topo includes a list.
A normal rack of equipment should generally suffice, the same as you would need for ice falls in the Alps, certain approaches are more alpine and require a skis/skins kit or snowshoes + DVA/spade/probe.
On Interstate 70 to the west of Denver. 30 lines of ice and mixed climbing with a maximum of one or two pitches. Difficulty WI 4 to 6+ and M6 to M13+. Not to be missed: RigidDesignator, TheFang, Octopussy, Fatman&Robin.
On Interstate 70, on hour from Vail. Only 6 lines, but beautiful and historic ones. Not to be missed: HiddenFalls. Beware – the sun can prove dangerous on GlenwoodFalls, several accidents.
On Interstate 70, a good half-hour from Glenwood. Ten one-pitch ice falls and steep and complex cigars within a gorge. Not to be missed: all of them!
On Interstate 70, barely half an hour from Rifle. Half a dozen classical ice falls of varying difficulty and accessibility. Not to be missed: ParachuteCreekFalls.
Redstone. Twenty minutes to the southwest of Carbondale on the 133. A good dozen ice falls, most of them relatively short, but the approach is too. Not to be missed: TheDrool, RedstonePilar.
On the “grand junction” between Interstate 70 and Highway 50. Six one-pitch lines located on Colorado’s red rocks. Not to be missed: MrMesa, sect. Gran Mesa.