The Durango area and its surroundings, most of Southwest Colorado really, has a large number of good climbing spots. No climbing spots are precisely the same, with each having varied approaches, shapes, and rock types. This makes each climbing attempt and each location a unique experience as you work your way up and down a rock face.
Much of the sandstone in the area is too soft for permanent anchors, and a skilled climber must consider this. The granite can be hollow in areas and crumbly depending on where you are. But these are each challenges climbers can face anywhere and must adapt to. But that is part of the fun of climbing.
During the winter, the Durango area becomes a bit of a haven for ice climbing. Multiple outfitters abound in the area that can rent or sell you equipment, and some even offer lessons. The small rivers, tributaries, waterfalls, and mountain lakes near cliffs and rock faces become covered in hard ice, ideal for climbing with the proper equipment. With areas like Cascade Canyon, with its waterfalls turning into ice walls sitting just outside of town. The area is full of chances for ice climbing.
One of the most scenic and beautiful climbs during the warmer seasons is Cascade Canyon. A hiking and climbing trail that descends through a canyon carved by years of water into a fantastic series of pools and waterfalls.
The climb only gets more beautiful during the winter as the water freezes like a moment frozen in time. The free-flowing waterfalls become jagged ice walls perfect for ice climbing in the dead of winter. As an added benefit, the area is climbing generally so you can do mixed ice and rock climbs depending on what you prefer.
A secluded and quiet climbing spot pretty much unmapped by anyone besides the local climbers' hides near Vallecito Reservoir.
A series of crags have formed over the centuries near the area Vallecito reservoir was built on. These crags make for solid climbing during the spring, summer, and fall seasons if you're looking for a fun time. But if you want to try something new, wait till the winter months as the water in the area starts to freeze.
The runoff from earlier snowmelt and just a build-up of water freeze into the crags, making them perfect for ice climbing.
Just North of Lemon Reservoir lies a granite canyon carved by the Florida River that is ideal for climbers looking to go cragging. Considered to be some of the best crag climbing in the area during the normal climbing season things get even more interesting during the winter.
The river that runs through the canyon can cause the walls to be a bit slippery and wet, but when it freezes the chance for ice climbing becomes available.
A lot of the area has been climbed before and has anchors in place that can be used when climbing.
The area between Durango and Silverton is ripe with climbing routes and opportunities. If you take the Durango Silverton railway there is a terrific view of some of these available routes and even a glimpse of some of what makes the area great for natural ice climbing.
Alongside the railway you can see the occasional waterfall and trickle of water running over the rocks. These natural water sources freeze over the winter and form walls of pure ice ready for climbing.
The Silverton area and its surroundings are just as abundant with natural mixed climbing routes to explore as Durango is.
Every winter, the small town of Ouray turns into the world's largest man-made ice-climbing park that is entirely free to use.
Starting in November specialized "ice farmers" spray the walls of a natural gorge just outside of town to get the ice forming. Using a clever mix of engineering, to use natural spring water, and irrigation techniques, they continually add water through the winter season. From there, they build up huge majestic slabs of ice with icicles dangling down into the gorge.
These intentionally formed ice flows line the gorge walls, summoning climbers from miles around. With over 150 climbs, including pure ice and mixed routes, the wall is designed for the enjoyment of climbers.
If you want a whole-day package of climbing and then some relaxation afterward, Pagosa Springs is the perfect place. Just over an hour's drive from Durango, Pagosa is the whole package for a winter day's climbing trip.
You can head out for treasure falls or the box canyons alongside the Piedra River to climb up the frozen falls. Their constantly falling water freezes into a solid wall ideal for ice climbing.
Once you finish up, you can warm up and soothe your tired muscles in the local hot springs to bring your climbing day to a close.
A several-hour drive North of Durango lies a small city called Lake City. Really Lake City is more of a small town than a city, but that doesn't change the fact that it can be an incredibly pleasant place to visit.
Climbing-wise, Lake City's location is nestled in the same sort of mountainous area as Durango and Silverton, meaning there is bound to be at least some decent climbing around.
What makes Lake City's climbing stand out is the Lake City Ice Park. Lake City Ice park is a cliff face that, at its peak, is at least 110 feet high. When it opens in December, the park attracts ice climbers from all over to ascend their icy walls.
Ice climbing is both harder and easier than rock climbing in its own way. It doesn't hurt to take a lesson or two to ensure you and anyone you go with are safe.
Rental or purchase of the proper equipment for pretty much any type of climbing is available at multiple locations in town. Make sure you have what you need and that what you do have is up to snuff.
Ice climbing tends to form naturally in cold, darker areas like canyons and gorges. Meaning it will be cold, potentially wet, and dark. Make sure to stay as warm and dry as you can.