Ice Climbing Courses

Our ice climbing courses are designed to help you elevate your skill set, whether you are new to the sport or have climbed ice previously. Finding success as an ice climber is almost entirely dependent on developing good technique, some of which can seem counter-intuitive. The curriculum for each course provides climbers a solid foundation of basic skills, and then builds upon those skills in an easy to understand progression. All of our instructors are highly trained and experienced professional guides who love to help climbers exceed their expectations and have a passion for climbing ice themselves.

Mountain Trip offers ice climbing courses outside of Telluride, Colorado, home to some of the greatest concentration of world-class ice in North America. Whether you’re looking to progress your skills as an ice climber, from leading or climbing a higher grade, or simply to pick up a new way to have fun in the alpine, our courses can help you achieve these goals while exploring beautiful zones of the San Juan Mountains. We would love to share our passion for ice with you!

Intro to Ice Course

This course is intended for climbers interested in learning the skills necessary to efficiently climb moderately steep ice.  Ice grades are defined by the duration of their steepest pitches, and this course is intended to help you move comfortably on terrain to “Water Ice Grade 4” (WI4), meaning consistent sections of 70-80 degree (vertical or nearly vertical) ice, with fairly long segments of route that kick back to a fully vertical 90 degrees.

If you are first time climber but drawn to ice, or an experienced rock climber looking to try out the sport, this course is a great way to test it out and develop a foundation for moderate ice climbing. The San Juans are home to some of the most amazing ice routes in the United States and provide a great training ground to progress into big, iconic routes like Bridal Veil Falls and the Ames Ice Hose. These inspiring climbs provoke the imagination and entice us from afar, but require diligence and attention to building and improving your technique.

This course is a two day, relatively intensive introduction to top rope ice climbing. It will focus on climbing basics including, climbing terminology and communication, best practices for top rope belay and lowering and basic risk management in Ice climbing. In addition to the basic, we will dive into ice climbing equipment, movement and climbing technique suitable for WI3 and some WI4.

Intended Course Outcomes:

  • Develop body positioning and climbing technique for efficient and successful movement on moderate ice.
  • Be able to tie into a rope using a figure 8 and double-check the knot. 
  • Provide a safe top rope belay and lower for a climbing partner.
  • Proper top-rope anchor construction.
  • Utilize climbing commands (ie: “on belay”) and learn specific ice climbing terminology
  • Build familiarity with ice climbing equipment
  • Understand winter layering systems and learn techniques for self care in cold environments

Mountain Trip will provide all the necessary technical climbing equipment to all climbers, unless you would prefer to use your own. We make sure that all equipment that we provide to our climbers is top-of-the-line and the newest technology available.

Upcoming Course Dates:

February 20-21, 2020

March 5-6, 2020

Advanced/Backcountry Ice Climbing Workshop

If you have climbed ice several times, either guided or unguided, this course will help you further develop the fluid skills necessary for climbing consistently steep ice. There is little that comes naturally about climbing vertical frozen waterfalls; let us help you progress from moderate to steep ice! This course will help to provide the a good base of skills and the development of those skills essential to climb, and eventually lead, big routes in the San Juans and around the country.

This course is geared towards the experienced rock climber who already has a lot of vertical awareness and rope skills, or to the novice ice climber hoping to bring their climbing to the next level.

The course can also be taken in conjunction with the Intro to Ice Course, or booked on a private, custom basis at any time throughout the season.

Intended Course Outcomes:

  • Comfortably climb WI4 and aspire to begin climbing WI5.
  • Become familiar with placing and removing ice screws for protection.
  • Be able to build and clean anchors suitable for top-rope ice climbing using proper practices.
  • Develop the skill set required for following multi-pitch ice routes
  • Read ice conditions and terrain
  • Evaluate conditions (ie. avalanche hazard, weather)

Upcoming Course Dates:

February 22-23, 2020

March 7-8, 2020

In all of our courses, we provide instruction in the latest techniques that will help you push yourself and improve as a climber and can accompany you on high, challenging routes. Emphasis on efficiency and how to organize your systems will help you build a foundation, which will help prepare you for your next big route or just help you have more fun. If the scheduled dates for these courses don’t work for you, please get in touch with us to learn more about booking intensive ice climbing instruction on a private basis.

Mountain Trip will provide all the necessary technical climbing equipment to all climbers, unless you would prefer to use your own. We make sure that all equipment that we provide to our climbers is top-of-the-line and the most technology available.

Customized Private Course Options

If you’re an experienced ice climber looking to hone specific skills and take your personal climbing to the next level, our AMGA-certified guides can provide expert instruction, invaluable guidance and in-depth first-hand knowledge of San Juan ice.

Learn to Lead Ice Clinic: For experienced ice climbers looking to take their climbing to a higher level, and begin to lead moderate pitches of ice while placing ice screws.

Intro to Mixed Climbing: In-depth instruction on dry tooling technique and various mixed climbing skills that are often essential for big winter alpine routes.

Multi-Pitch Seminar: Learn techniques specific to climbing multiple pitches of ice, including rope management and mitigating the risks of overhead hazard and exposure.

Backcountry and Alpine Ice: Scouting and climbing less-established, remote ice routes is a very involved but rewarding challenge. Learn skills for avoiding hazard while seeking out the more “off-the-beaten-path” adventure while experiencing the best of the San Juan’s lesser known ice.

Intro to Alpine Climbing: If you’re aspiring to climb a big alpine ice route like the Moose’s Tooth in Alaska, it’s essential to practice steep snow and ice climbing in a harsh and remote environment; the mountains surrounding Telluride offer the chance to practice big mountain skills in a lower consequence environment with guides who spend a lot of their time among the high mountains of the world.

Please contact the Mountain Trip office for more details.


The following is a general list of required gear for ice climbing with Mountain Trip. Climbers joining us will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that may supersede this list.  In general, you want a selection of warm layers that can work together.  Clothing that works well for a day of skiing will work fine, but dedicated climbing clothing works better.

Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience in the mountains. Please plan ahead with equipment purchased for your trip so you can be certain that your gear fits you well.  Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides. We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion about anything you are considering. There is a good selection of gear available in Telluride and Ouray, and we have a good selection of loaner and rental gear, so just let us know what you might need.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing BootsTechnical routes or steep day climbs are often best climbed by wearing light weight, insulated boots. Waterproof and breathable, these give a climber more "feel" than do double boots. The caveat is that they are hard to keep dry over time, so certain double boots are better for technical alpine routes. Our favorite double boot for climbing technical routes is the La Sportiva Spantik. There are many great single boots on the market, and one of our favorites is the La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX.
GaitersGaiters are required unless your pants fit tightly around your boot, many boots have built in gaiters.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers. Long sleeve or short sleeve base layers work well.
Light Fleece HoodyLight/mid weight fleece (or wool) top with a hood. You will wear this over your light weight base layer.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece hoody and wind shell, and it is often layered underneath your expedition parka. Synthetic is easier to deal with and not worry about getting wet than a similar down filled layer. A hood on this layer in mandatory! *** Guides Tip! Use two lightweight puffy layers in the early season or if you are worried about being cold. A Micro or Nano Puff jacket with a Ultra Light Down Jacket or Vest allows versatile layering options.
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your light puffy jacket layer. You do not need the burliest/heaviest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions.
Soft Shell Wind JacketMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. We are huge fans of very lightweight softshell wind jackets for high, dry, cold peaks. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. This layer is used in addition to your more waterproof hard shell jacket.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Bottoms(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers.
Light Fleece BottomsAs the air thins and the wind picks up, you'll want a bit more insulation on your legs. This should be a slightly warmer layer that can go over your base layer bottoms when it gets cold.
Soft Shell PantsSoft Shell pants are the workhorse on Denali, you'll be wearing these day in and day out on most expeditions. On peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, you can wear them in lieu of your hard shell pants for much of the expedition.
Hard Shell, Waterproof PantsWhen it's raining a soft shell pant just isn't enough and you'll need a waterproof "hard shell" pant, Gore-Tex or equivalent. These should be as light weight as possible, fully separating side zippers will help to get them on without taking off your boots. On some peaks, you might carry hard shell pants for the lower mountain, but switch to soft shell pants for the colder and drier upper mountain.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Heavyweight GlovesWarm, insulated gloves are the day-to-day workhorses on cold peaks or for cold days of ice climbing. We prefer gloves with removable liners for ease of drying.
Medium Weight GlovesA Mid-weight glove will generally be a softshell type glove with some light synthetic insulation.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing PackSuitable climbing packs will be 30 - 45 liters in volume and have the capability of easily attaching crampons, and ice axes if used for a day of ice climbing or if needed for a peak ascent. For a day climbs, any pack in the 30 - 45 liter range will work, but we recommend that you consider the weight of the pack carefully. Overnight, alpine routes require larger (45L) packs that also let you strap your sleeping pad to the outside.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Climbing HelmetMake certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. The super-lightweight foam helmets are great, but can get crushed in your duffel bags during travel, so protect your lid!
Climbing HarnessAn aspect of technical climbing is hanging in a harness. Having a padded, comfortable harness will make you much happier than will a thinly padded, alpine harness, and, should you find yourself at a semi hanging belay, your legs are less likely to fall asleep from lack of circulation.
CramponsSelect a pair 12-point Mountaineering Crampons that fit your boots well. Step-in or strap versions work equally well; just make sure they fit your mountain boots and overboots. You may need to lengthen your crampons to accommodate your overboots, please make sure you can make this adjustment in the field. Aluminum crampons are not acceptable for expeditions.
Belay/Rappel DeviceA plaquette style belay/rappel device.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
SunscreenThe sun can be intense in Colorado, so please apply high SPF sunscreen prior to your trip and bring a small tube along to reapply during the day.

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for climbers who must cancel climbs which they have planned for a long time. Climbers must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning climbs and contracting guides for specific dates, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in organizing a day of ice climbing. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all climbers. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all expeditions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• We require payment in full for all of our Colorado Ice Climbing trips.  Submission of payment constitutes your agreement to our Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• Any cancellation 7+ days before your scheduled date to climb will receive a 50% refund of all fees paid to Mountain Trip.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 7 days prior to your scheduled date for ice climbing.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel a climb prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that climb shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.

Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides

• Local transportation in the Telluride and Mountain Village area

• All necessary climbing equipment (ice tools, crampons, harness, climbing helmet, carabiners, belay/rappel devices, etc)

• Assistance arranging for post-climb activities in the area


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Transportation between Telluride and Ouray is not included, but is available for an extra charge

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list (please, just ask us if you need anything!)

• Meals

• Accommodation in Colorado

• Travel and/or rescue insurance

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the climbing area due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides

• Costs as a result of force majeure


General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for a climb with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on a climb in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Team Meeting Day for your climb. Transportation to the meeting point on your Team Meeting Day is to be provided by you, unless otherwise arranged with Mountain Trip. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your climb. This probably means you will need to arrive the day before, as it is often prudent to get an early start in the morning.  Climbing is very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination or how you might best arrange your travel to SW Colorado. If flying, we suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the Mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility.

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the climb and choosing a climb that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb.

While on the climb, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from a climb.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave a climb due to an illness.