Backcountry Ice Seminar

Backcountry Ice Seminar Ouray, CO

Classic Ice Routes in the San Juans

backcountry ice climbing ouray co

The 4 day Backcountry Ice Seminar in Ouray, CO has been specifically designed for ice climbers with previous experience and the ability to follow ice climbs rated WI 5. The Ouray area and the San Juans are blessed with a lifetime’s worth of backcountry ice routes. From the classic Stairway to Heaven and Ames Ice Hose, to seldom done routes such as Hoser’s Highway, no other guide service combines the access and expert guiding available on a program of this nature.  If your goal is to progress as both an ice climber and tick off many of the area’s classic routes then this is the program for you.

We have organized this 4 day seminar over 5 days, with one rest day built into the middle of the program so that fatigue does not become a factor.  This also provides us with the flexibility to work within the confines of the weather and other factors as they may arise.  The maximum client-to-guide ratio on this program is 2:1, which guarantees that you will receive both personalized and professional instruction from your AMGA Certified SJMG Guide.

Private Guide Right For You?

If the dates of our scheduled Backcountry Ice Seminar don’t work for you, then consider scheduling the 4 day program with a Private Ice Guide that can climb with you on the dates you prefer and tailor the instruction to your specific needs, skills, and goals.

I am always impressed at SJMG guides ability to forge a connection with their clients, even if for a small time, and make those clients feel special and personal. Jim did a great job in all aspects of guiding, including those. Forging this kind of strong relationship with SJMG that exists on a more personal level is very valuable to me.– Daniel B, Backcountry Ice Seminar Jan, 2017


Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online

Backcountry Ice Seminar Itinerary

Experts Ice

Day 1

Meet at 0730 at our shop in at 725 Main St. in Ouray. We recommend grabbing breakfast and/or lunch from Backstreet Bagel across street. 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.

We spend the first day of the program in both Ouray’s Skylight Area and the Ouray Ice Park.  This first day is in part a skills review day, and also a skills assessment day so that your guide(s) can have a better understanding of where you are at in terms of your ice climbing ability.  This allows us to customize the itinerary for subsequent days.

Day 2

Meet at 0700, at our office.  We’ll drive to Silverton’s Eureka Canyon for an ascent of either Stairway to Heaven or Whorehouse Ice Hose.  In some cases and with strong groups we can do both routes in the same day.  Other route options are available depending upon the group.

Day 3

Meet at 0700, at our office.  We’ll drive to the Telluride area for a planned ascent of the Ames Ice Hose – quite possibly Colorado’s finest multi-pitch ice route and one of N. America’s classic routes.  Other route options are available depending upon the group.  We may adjust the itinerary as weather an other group factors dictate.

Day 4
Silverton Ice

Rest and relax in the Ouray area.  Sleep in, eat a big breakfast, visit the hot springs, etc.  We may adjust the itinerary as weather an other group factors dictate.

Day 5

Meet at 0700, at our office.  We’ll drive to the Telluride area for a planned ascent of the Bridal Veil Falls – another of Colorado’s finest multi-pitch ice route and one of N. America’s classic routes.  Other route options are available depending upon the group including Kennedy’s Gully, Gravity’s Rainbow, Bird Brain Boulevard, and the Talisman.

We have honed our curriculum and itinerary through many years of ice climbing instruction. These courses offer a great way to introduce yourself to the sport of ice climbing in a fun, more affordable group atmosphere.

Backcounrtry Ice Climbing Equipment List

  • Water Bottles: 2 liters
  • Small Thermos: Optional, but nice to have
  • Day Pack: Approximately 35 – 50 liters.
  • Lunch Food& Snacks 

Technical Outerwear

  • Socks: A pair of heavy wool or polypropylene.
  • Base Layers: tops and bottoms. Midweight, synthetic material.
  • Mid-Layer: Versatile fleece or similar mid-layer piece.
  • Soft Shell Jacket & Pants: Shoeller or similar soft shell jacket.
  • Down Jacket or Insulated Parka
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Personal First Aid Kit

Climbing Equipment

Provided by SJMG, however, you are welcome to use your own.

  • Harness with Ice Clippers
  • Locking Carabiners: 2 Pear shaped, wide mouth.
  • Non-Locking Carabiners: 4 – 6
  • Belay / Rappel device: ATC Guide or similar.
  • Climbing Helmet
  • Ice Climbing Boots
  • Crampons: Step in crampons with vertical front points.
  • Ice Tools: Technical ice climbing tools
  • Cordelettes: 2, 6-7mm, 20 feet lengths
  • Spectra Runners: 2 double, 4 single
  • Quickdraws: 4 – 6
  • Ice Screws: 4 – 8 of varying lengths

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

Whorehouse Ice Climber

Participants on our Expert’s Ice Seminar should be comfortable following ice climbs rated up to WI 5.  Completion of our Intro, Intermediate, and Hard Ice course progressions is suggested though not specifically required for this program.  Training for ice climbing should be taken seriously prior to this program, and you will get a lot more out of your trip as a result.  Refer to this link: Ice Climbing Training 101 by Aaron Mulkey of Cold Fear, and don’t hesitate to contact our office or your guide for the program for more specific recommendations.

2Follow Up Climbs

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.

View Larger Map

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.

  • TelluRides offers shuttle services from Montrose to Ouray.

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!

Additional Information

  • Cost Includes:

Ice Climber Ouray

  • Guiding and instruction
  • Group climbing equipment (ropes, ice screws etc.),
  • Harness, helmet, ice tools, crampons and ice boots

  • 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.

Call 800.642.5389 to Reserve

Register Now Online



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