Ouray, Colorado, pronounced /ˈjʊəreɪ/, is another amazing small Colorado mountain town. Sitting at over 7,000 feet in elevation, Ouray is a place for fun. Known as the Switzerland of America, Ouray is famous for its hot springs, scenery and 4 Wheelin during the summer, but during the winter they turn a canyon into an a large Ice climbing playground and people come from all over to give it a go. With more than 200 Ice and mixed climbs, the Ouray Ice Park is the largest and some would say the best Ice Climbing in the San Juans. The Ice Park using a unique system that uses gravity to “farm” the ice at night and create one amazing scene. The Ice Park is free to climb, and open to all who want to climb some of the most amazing ice around. If your inexperienced or have never ice climbed before the Ouray Ice Park is probably the place to start. The runs range from beginner to advanced and clinics are held on a regular basis at the park. You can also hire a local guide and rent equipment in town so really you have no excuses once your there.
I have alway wanted to photograph the ice park, but the drive from Durango to Ouray goes over multiple passes, with the worst one being Red Mountain Pass. This year alone, I have heard of at least 3 avalanches on Red Mountain Pass and combined with the fact that the road has no guard rails and is just wide enough for two cars, I tried to stay away during the winter. However, this winter I decided to give it a shot. The weather had been nice here for a few weeks and the road reports were very positive, so I gave it a shot.
We arrived safely in Ouray and stopped for some food before our adventure to the canyon. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining, and even though the thermometer said it was in the low 50’s it felt like a warm spring day. After some fuel we headed up to the ice park. I had heard how huge this place was but I really had no idea. We walked the Box Canyon trail, this takes you south along the bottom canyon where there is an overlook for Box Canyon Falls, which at this time of year didn’t look much different from the rest of the Ice Park.
From there we headed back up the trail, to the north side of the park. It was here we got to see some Ice Climbers in action. From beginners to experts the fun goes on and on down the canyon, above the canyon, it seemed if there was a wall they could farm Ice on, they did.