Climbing at the Lake City Ice Park
With all the warm weather we've had recently on the Front Range, it was time to venture into the mountains and get on some ice that was actually cold! Lake City, Colorado and the Lake City Ice Park seemed like just the place to escape the heat and ice climb.
The Lake City Ice Park is second to none and holds some of Colorado's best ice climbing with less than a thirty second approach from the road. After talking with my guests for the week, we decided to go ice climbing at Lake City.
As I laid out my ice climbing gear and packed my bags for six nights on the road, I couldn't help but be excited. The four and a half hour drive from Golden was easy and I didn't run into too bad of roads over Monarch Pass.
The drive down Highway 285 always feels like time travel to me. Things just seem to slow down as you get away from the hustle and bustle of the Denver area.
When I arrived in Lake City, I was absolutely psyched! I took a few minutes and drove down the Engineer Pass Road past the Pumphouse area, Dynamite Shack, and Beer Garden. The ice was definitely in and I was ready to go ice climbing!
After checking into the AirBnB and having a nice hot meal, I sorted gear and got my pack squared away.
My alarm went off at 7am. It was cold in the house but I was so ready to swing my tools. After a relaxing breakfast and plenty of coffee, we departed for the original Lake City Ice Park - The Pumphouse.
Today's goal was to work on top-rope setups and get everyone climbing and feeling comfortable on the ice. I had climbed with Heidi, Keith, Brad, and Lori before in Lake City and wanted to bump things up a notch as I knew they all had a good understanding of ice climbing.
Heidi, Keith and I walked to the top of the ice cliff and identified the routes we wanted to climb for the day. Heidi went to work setting up one of the anchors and before I knew it, she was ready to transition from the top of the ice flow to a rappel over the edge.
We spent the remainder of the day working on and perfecting ice climbing technique so we could get on steeper ice the next day.
Fast forward twelve hours and we were back at it again. This time, we went to the newest addition to the Lake City Ice Park - The Dynamite Shack.
This area demands attention as the routes are very tall and the ice is almost always vertical. Just what we were looking for as our second day out!
We got a great 70 meter warmup route under our belts before hopping on the steeper ice to the left.
The temps had definitely warmed up and the ice was a little softer and more hydrated. Better sticks also meant wetter gloves today.
After numerous pitches, we decided to call it a day and save some energy for tomorrow.
Wednesday morning rolled around early. Everyone was feeling tired and sore after two stellar days of ice climbing. But...the fun wasn't over yet! We had a very casual start and went back to the Pumphouse area.
Despite being tired from the previous days, everyone did an excellent job. Lori even had a personal best as the technique finally clicked!
As we wrapped up our three days together, it was incredible to see just how much everyone progressed. I can't wait to climb again with these four ice crushers!
I rolled into bed that night, tired, but proud of the accomplishments that had been made over the last couple of days. I still had two more days of climbing with a longtime guest and friend. I dozed off thinking of different itineraries that would make a great day of ice climbing.
The next morning was cold. That's a lie...it was pure arctic. We met at 8:30am and rolled into the ice park only to start a fire in the warming hut and sit around for awhile warming our hands as we strapped crampons to our feet.
We climbed for the better part of eight hours and racked up an impressive pitch count working on technique, swinging tools, kicking crampons, and reading the ice. We climbed everything from steep pillars to cauliflowered steep ice to everything in-between.
I could feel my body was tired after the last four days of ice climbing. As we wrapped up the day, we decided to head the Dynamite Shack in the morning.
After a good night sleep, we met up at the same time and headed out to the ice park. We worked on some multipitch transitions and climbed a ton of steep ice.
It was bullet proof this morning. The ice was so hard that newly sharpened tools were just bouncing off it. It took on average five swings to clear the dinner plates and get a good stick in the ice.
Phew...we were gassed after putting in all the hard work.
One final route in the Beer Garden and we called it quits. Both of us were grinning ear to ear at the last two days of ice climbing.
What an absolutely spectacular stint of work!
The Lake City Ice Park truly delivered. The ice climbing here is spectacular and just right for wherever you're at in your climbing journey. I highly recommend checking this area out and can't wait to get back here!
Curious about getting out to the Lake City Ice Park? Want to learn more? I'd love to get out with you and swing some tools! Drop me a line Here to ask questions or to inquire about a class or trip. Hope to see you out there!
Written by Ben Coryell
AMGA Certified Rock Guide & Assistant Alpine Guide