Photo: Ethan Welty/Tandemstock

The 5 Best Places To Learn How To Ice Climb

Starting to ice climb this season? Head to these beginner-friendly ice climbing epicenters.

As ice climbing has soared in popularity over the past few years, there are more clinics, guided outings, and ice festivals than ever before—which makes now the perfect time to learn. If you’re new to the sport and looking for a place to top-rope some ice or even try your first lead, check out one of these five spots for easy access and beginner-friendly flows.  

Ouray - Colo.

Nestled in the midst of southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, Ouray (pronounced YUR-ay) is known for its cold temperatures, soaring cliffs, and plentiful ice. Even better news for beginners: The Ouray Ice Park, a winding canyon lined with top rope-accessible ice flows, is walking distance from town. Go any time of year for free entry (donation recommended), or visit during the iconic annual Ouray Ice Fest for inexpensive gear rentals and world-class climbing clinics.

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Hyalite Canyon - Mont.

Bozeman, Montana, is famous among outdoor adventurers of all persuasions, but it’s particularly legendary among ice climbers. About 20 minutes from town, you’ll find Hyalite Canyon, a seemingly endless playground threaded with over 100 distinct ice flows. If you have good winter tires and a little uphill snow savvy, you’ll find most areas easily accessible. Head to the Genesis wall for a high concentration of beginner-friendly climbs, some of which offer top-rope access. Brand-new to ice? Schedule your trip around the annual Bozeman Ice Fest to take advantage of clinics, gear rentals, and fun events.

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Photo: Ethan Welty/TandemStock

Adirondack Park - N.Y.

Combine cold, wet winters and steep terrain, and you’ve got ideal conditions for consistent, reliable ice formation. That makes the Northeast one of the best places in the U.S. to learn how to ice climb. A good spot to start? About five hours’ drive north of New York City and six hours northeast of Buffalo, the Adirondacks’ Keene Valley and Chapel Pond areas provide a high concentration of roadside ice climbs in a variety of styles. Some crags offer more top-rope access than others, so grab a local guidebook and choose wisely if you’re not leading yet.

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Sandstone - Minn.

Minnesota is home to a thriving, welcoming ice climbing community, and there’s no better place to experience it than at the Sandstone Ice Fest. Try out demo gear, take a variety of clinics, and meet other ice climbers at this annual community event. Oh, and did we mention the setting? Robinson Quarry Ice Park is a local gem that features dozens of top-rope-accessible flows on striking vertical cliffs just a stone’s throw from the town of Sandstone (about halfway between the Twin Cities and Duluth).

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Lee Vining Canyon - Calif. 

Easy access, moderate grades, and a gorgeous Eastern Sierra setting (about a 2.5-hour drive south of Reno, Nev.) bring ice climbers flocking to the Lee Vining area every winter. Investigate the hype for yourself with an outing to Chouinards, a popular 110-foot flow with a handful of beginner-friendly lines. Also checkout the nearby Main Wall, which is nearly twice as high and offers routes ranging from WI3 to WI5. (Pro tip: Go on weekdays to avoid the crowds.)

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All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.