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Last year, 4,500 puffy-clad revelers flocked to the Ouray Ice Festival to scale ice walls, peruse new equipment, and party at late-night, beer-fueled blowouts. “Sounds like a dream!” you say—before remembering you have no idea how to ascend ice. Luckily, entry-level clinics at the three-day, four-night affair teach novices the basics, so experience is not a prerequisite. The right gear, however, is.
Owned by Golden’s C.A.M.P., Cassin-brand ice tools have found a foothold in climbers’ hearts thanks to their pick geometry, which penetrates the ice without pulling too much of the wall away. Plus, the X-Dream model (climbers need one for each hand) features a curved shaft so you can better flick your wrist, the movement that generates your swinging power. $280 for one
You’ll need to invest in sturdy mountaineering boots—like the Trango Ice Cube GTX from La Sportiva, an Italian company that has its U.S. headquarters in Boulder. This pair has a lightweight sole, built-in gaiters to protect your clothing from accidental crampon punctures, and extra rubber around the toe that creates more traction during the slippery hike in. $550
Crampons keep you stuck to the ice—hint: that’s important—and a steel construction with 10 to 14 points, including front prongs for kicking, is typical. But unlike other crampon designs, the rigid Cassin Blade Runner contours tightly to your boot, so it feels like part of your foot instead of an extraneous piece of metal—giving you more control over your Spiderman imitation. $350
If you go: Ouray Ice Festival at Ouray Ice Park, Ouray; January 23–26; From $70 for clinics; $10 to demo gear; You can spectate, visit vendors, and climb with friends for free.
After Ouray, hone your scaling skills on some of Colorado’s best ice walls for beginners.
Trees at the top of this approximately 75-foot-tall frozen waterfall provide reliable anchors for “top roping”—a secure style of climbing in which a person ascends while attached to a rope that hangs from above.
South of Breckenridge on Mt. Lincoln’s northeast side, Lincoln Falls’ height varies each winter depending on seasonal water flow. Still, a 60-foot rope will be plenty long for the two top-rope-accessible courses. Arrive early; the pretty, 45-minute hike in draws a crowd.
If you’re not confident about your endurance, visit the wall near Moffat Tunnel: About 13 miles south of Nederland, it boasts a series of short, easy routes. The tallest is about 50 feet, but you can practice your technique on the 25-footer.