Lake City’s first brush with fame came in 1875, when guide Alferd Packer notoriously returned to town after wintering over in the remote backcountry—having eaten the rest of his prospecting party. The sensational tale is memorialized in the Hinsdale County Museum and at a “Packer Bar” (featuring images of both a football player from Green Bay and the infamous Alferd) on Silver Street, but don’t worry: the guides you’ll run into at Lake City Ice Park are more likely to offer you a turn on their ropes than to cannibalize you. Much of the town shuts down in winter, but a small grocery store and a couple of bars stay open to supply the growing stream of ice climbers.
Who is Going to Love It
The climbing at Lake City Ice Park is suited for climbers of all ability levels, though knowledge of climbing systems is a must for at least one member of any party in order to safely lead or set topropes. Groups with less experience are in luck: you can hire a guide to show you the ropes. Anyone who leaves the parking area should be equipped with a helmet to protect from falling ice, and you’ll want crampons on to venture up to the anchors at the top of the cliffs.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Denver, it takes about five hours to drive to Lake City. Follow US-285 S and US-50 W to CO-149 S in Gunnison County. CO-149 becomes Gunnison Avenue in Lake City. After signing a waiver in town, take a right onto Second Street, followed in three blocks by a left of Bluff Street. Almost immediately, you’ll see the climbs on the left—park on either side of the road.
What Makes It Great
After a few seasons, Lake City Ice Park has hit its stride: the park, just a few blocks from the quaint main drag, features hundreds of collective feet of climbing on high-quality farmed ice. Toprope access means it’s approachable for those putting on crampons for the first time, but experienced climbers will relish the opportunity to toprope a tricky mixed route. (The Mountain Project page for the ice park aptly describes the range of routes as “WI3 to M-Scary.”)
Bolted anchors and abundant trees mean you won’t need ice screws, but they’re set fairly far back from the edge of the cliffs—bring a static 60-meter rope for anchors to avoid having to pick apart the frozen water knots in your webbing at the end of the day. Most routes are about 60 to 100 feet, though a couple of shorter routes—looker’s left from the base of the climbs—offer a chance to warm up or try out a new pair of ice tools before committing.
While there’s no charge to climb here, the park is run by Lake City Ice Climbs, Inc., which relies on donations—maintenance for high-quality ice doesn’t come cheap. Consider dropping a few bucks in the small red donation kiosk next to the port-a-john.
Originally written by RootsRated.
Featured image provided by Emma Walker