Ice Leader’s Seminar Ouray, CO
4 Day Intensive Lead Seminar
Senior SJMG Guide Mark Miller has been teaching climbers to lead water ice for over a decade and has developed an incredible curriculum for the aspiring water ice leader. Utilizing the benefits of a small group setting, participants will be able to increase their confidence and push into more difficult ice grades with grace and style.
The 4 day Ice Leader’s Seminar begins with a solid review of fundamental movement technique and then moves quickly into more technical skills, practice exercises, and instructor demos. Participants will transition through mock leads well within their ability as the instructor climbs next to them and evaluates protection and technique.
If you are serious about being an elegant and efficient ice leader, leading ice climbs with style and flow, and want to avoid the “kickin’ chicken” technique, then this is the course for you. Days will be packed full of instruction and information, as well as tons of hands-on application time.
Seminar Topics Include:
- screw placement, v-threads, and zero-threads
- different anchor systems for ice climbing
- movement strategies for leading
- belays, rappels, and transitions
- route selection, route finding, and route planning
- equipment and protection selection
- single, half, and twin rope techniques
- multi-pitch climbs
- rescuing a fallen leader
- and tons more!
The whole experience with Mark Miller was pretty amazing. He definitely lives up to his hype and if you climb with him you will very quickly realize why he is one of the most requested guides at San Juan Mountain Guides. – Ryan S. Private Ice & Ice Leader’s Seminar 2013
Lead Seminar Itinerary
Meet at 0730 at our shop in Ouray at 725 Main Street (across from Ouray Mountain Sports). If you would like to order breakfast or lunch try to get here a couple minutes early. Your Course Leader will give you a quick briefing, help you fill out a couple forms, and fit you in whatever demo equipment you might need. You will then carpool to the Ouray Ice Park for a full day of instruction. Skills and technique review in the Ouray Ice Park. We begin by climbing routes in the WI 4 range. Your guide will assess your technique and work with you to fine tune your approach to climbing steep ice. Self rescue techniques will also be covered and practiced.
Meet at 0730, carpool to the ice park. Review fundamentals from Day 1, and then take off on more advanced climbs and alpine scenarios designed to maximize your learning through hands-on practice and feedback. Lead climbing skills and mock leads in the Ouray area. The focus of this day will be to prepare ourselves for the upcoming multi-pitch climbs on days 3 – 4. Specific focus will be placed on screw placement and retrieval, multi-pitch systems and transitions, and gear selection.
Multi-pitch route in Ouray or Silverton. Our goal today will be to climb a multi-pitch route in the WI 4 – 4+ range of difficulty. Along the way we will further discuss and demonstrate tactics for competently climbing routes of this nature. If time allows we will return to the Ice Park in the afternoon and finalize the technical skills associated with climber self-rescue.
Multi-pitch route in Ouray or Silverton. We’ll attempt another route and further our knowledge and understanding of the multi-disciplinary demands of backcountry ice climbing. Route options depend on conditions, weather, and group dynamics. At the end of the day we’ll return to our office and present course completion certificates.
Lead Seminar Ice Equipment List
- Water Bottles: 2 1 liter size Nalgene w/bottle insulators.
- Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Day Pack: Approximately 35 – 50 liters.
Guides’ Pick: Osprey Mutant 38
- Gaiters: N/A for ice boots with integrated gaiter systems. Guides’ Pick: OR Crocs
- Lunch Food: Bring a selection of energy bars, GU’s, Clif Shots, and other high calorie quick energy foods.
- Socks: 2- 3 pair of heavy wool or polypropylene.
Guides’ Pick: Smartwool Mountaineer
- Long Underwear: One pair of tops and bottoms. Midweight, synthetic material.
- Mid-Layer: Versatile fleece or similar mid-layer piece.
Guides Pick: OR Centrifuge Jkt
- Soft Shell Jacket: Shoeller or similar soft shell jacket.
Guides Pick: OR Alibi Jacket
- Belay Jacket: Down or synthetic insulated jacket w/hood.
Guides’ Pick: OR Havoc Jacket
- Shell Jacket: Be sure that it will fit over all your other clothes. Gore-tex recommended.
- Shell Pants: With side zippers are best. Gore-tex recommended.
- Soft Shell Pants: Schoeller or similar fabric pants.
Guides Pick: OR Cirque Pant.
- Gloves: A pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium weight gloves.
- Hat: Warm pile or wool hat. Try to size it so that it will fit comfortably under your helmet.
- Balaclava or BUFF: A must have for cold days and wind.
- Sunglasses: Category 3 or 4 lenses
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm: At least SPF 30.
- Digital Camera
- Ice Harness: With 3 – 4 compatible “Ice Clippers”
- Auto Locking Belay / Rappell device: BD Guide ATC or similar
- Boots: Leather/synthetic insulated ice climbing boots.
- Crampons: Step in crampons with vertical front points.
- Ice Tools: Ice climbing tools (w/spare pick)
- Ice Screws: Approximately 6 – 8 screws, 13 – 19 cm size ranges
- 2 Cordelletes: 6 – 7 mm cord
- V-Thread Tool
- Spectra Runners: 2 double length runners and 6 single length runners
- Quickdraws: 4-6 Quickdraws
- Carabiners: Assortment of wire-gate and locking carabiners
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
1Before Your Trip
Participants on our Lead Seminar have typically already completed a Basic and Intermediate Ice Course, in addition to completing multi-pitch climbs either here in the San Juans or other similar ice climbing destinations. or have acquired similar skills through personal experience and training. We screen each of our participants to be sure that the group for the course is well-suited to the physical and mental demands of this program. The Lead Seminar ventures onto increasingly steep ice terrain (at times on difficulties as high as WI 5), so forearm and upper body strength become more relevant on a course of this nature. Training specific upper body muscles – including the forearms, biceps, triceps – and other associated musculature is a good investment as you progress as an ice climber. Other emphasis on core strength and breathing exercises – such as those practiced in a Yoga class – can also be helpful.
2Follow Up Climbs
- Cody, WY Ice Climbing
- Mixed Climbing Course – Ouray, CO
- Ruth Gorge Customs
- Moose’s Tooth – Ham ‘n Eggs
- Denali’s West Rib
We very much enjoyed our time in Ouray! The private 2-day climbing program was impressive. Our guide, Mark, was/is an excellent teacher. He took the time to build the skills for each of us, listened to the concerns and course corrected to ensure we were achieving what we wanted to achieve. Basically, Mark rocks! We look forward to coming back. – J. Bowers, 2011 Private Program
Ouray, Colorado: Getting Here
Ouray is located in the SW corner of Colorado, approximately 30 minutes south of Montrose. Known as “The Switzerland of America”, the town of Ouray is a vibrant outdoor oriented community. All local businesses are very friendly to the ice climbers who flock each winter to climb in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding areas.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, CO. It is also possible to fly into Durango, CO, Telluride, CO, or Albuquerque, NM. It may be necessary to rent a car and drive to Ouray if you’d like to fly into one of either of these airports.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Montrose, CO: 45 mins
- Durango, CO: 2 hours
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 4.5 hours
- Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours
Hotels: Ouray has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suit you best for this trip!
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and instruction
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, ice screws etc.),
- Harness, helmet, ice tools, crampons and ice boots
- Transportation to backcountry climbing destinations
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Ouray, CO
- Hotel costs before, during or after the courses
- 5% land use surcharge
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal climbing clothing
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.