Elevation: 8,855 ft
GPS: 39.642, -106.33 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 55,111 total · 235/month
Shared By: Chris Zeller on Nov 29, 1999
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac


Vail’s Rigid Designator Area is arguably the most famous ice climbing area in Colorado. Although the climbs here are not the longest or hardest in the state, the combination of aesthetic beauty, difficulty, route density, and accessibility make this the premier spot to push your climbing to a new level—regardless of your ability level. Indeed, it was on these climbs that pioneers pushed climbing to new levels in defining pure waterfall and mixed climbing as a sports of their own. Octopussy, Jeff Lowe’s M8 testpiece, is just to the right of the Designator (a world-famous climb in and of itself). The area boasts a variety of slabby ice sheets, incredible ice pillars, and moderate to heinously difficult mixed climbs. Despite the amount of activity in the area, new routes are still being done on the overhanging rock and thin smears of ice that occasionally form above. All of the climbs here are single pitch sport-ice climbs with excellent anchors at the tops of the climbs. All the climbs can be toproped, although leading them first is the only reasonable way of getting to the tops of most of the climbs.

Getting There

Take I-70 West out of Denver to Vail Ski Area. Find a legal parking spot. Don't walk on the cross country ski tracks.


work in progress, please be patient

A. Dr. Delicate, 8 WI5 M6+, 1p, 100', bolts & gear.
B. Teriebel Traverse, M7?, 1p.
C. Pitch Black, WI4-5 M9, 1p, bolts.
D. Aberrant Behavior aka LoweKey Lunacy, WI6+ M7, 1p, 100', gear & screws.
E. Rigid Designator, WI4-5, 1p, 115', screws.
F1. Somnambulist, M9?, 1p, bolts, gear, and screws.
F2. Resurrection, WI4-5 M7-8, 1p, 90', gear & screws.
G. Unknown, 1p, bolts.
H. Unknown, 1p, bolts.
I. Little Higher, M8-, 1p, 100', bolts.
J. 7th Chakra, M8+, 1p, 100', bolts & screws.
K. 7th Testicle, WI5- M6+, 1p, 85', bolts & screws.
L. Seventh Tentacle, WI5 M5, 1p, bolt, gear, & screws.
above L. Octopussy, M6-8, 2p, 150', bolts & gear.
above L. Reptile, WI5 M9-10, 1p, bolts.
M. Little Thang, WI5 M6, 1p, bolts & screws.
above M. Lucky, WI5+ M9?, 1p, 120', bolts.
N. The Fang, WI5-6, 1p, 135', screws.
OM. Cupcake Corner, M5, 1p, 70', bolts.
P. "Dolly Madison", M6+, 1p, 85', bolts.
QP. Tatranka, M7, 1p, 80', bolts.
RN. King Cobra/King Cobra Extension, M11-, 1p, 115', bolts.
R. Hooded Cobra, M8-, 1p, 80', bolts.
S. Red Bull and Vodka, M11, (P1 M8+), 2p, bolts.
T2T1SRN. Superfortress, M13, 1p, 115', bolts.
T1. Red Beard, M12, 1p, 115', bolts.
T2T1+. The Flying Fortress, M13, 1p, 115', bolts.
T2. Amphibian, WI 5+ M9 (P1 WI5 M8), 2p, 105', bolts.
UT. Godzilla, WI5 M8, 1p, 105', bolts & screw.
V. Project.
W. Built for Comfort, M9, 1p, 85', bolts.
X. Fatman and Robin, M9, 2p, gear & bolts.
Y. Little Higher, M7+, 1p, bolts.
Z. For the Ladies, M9, 1p, 85', bolts.
AA. Steel Balls, M9, 1p, bolts.
BB. Fuck The System, M8-9, 1p, bolts.
CC. Hurt Locker, M8, 1p, 40', bolts.
CC. Choss Corner, M6, 1p, 40', bolts.

32 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Rigid Designator Amphitheatre

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
More Classic Climbs in Rigid Designator Amphitheatre »

Sun & Shade

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season
Julian Smith
Colorado Springs, CO
Julian Smith   Colorado Springs, CO
The Rigid Designator Area is pretty fat as of 3/3/02. Rigid Designator and Fang looked way more serious than usual, though. Cold temperatures had the ice very brittle and the flows were very chandeliered. The Fang was running with water. So, what else is new? Spiral Staircase was in much better shape than the aforementioned routes. Secret Probation looked pretty righteous as well. Enjoy. Mar 4, 2002
Mark Hammond
Eldorado Springs, CO
Mark Hammond   Eldorado Springs, CO
Climbed here today. RD is fat and easy. Lots of pick holes and steps for feet. For a challenge, climb it with no tools. Fang is skinny but connected. It's probably still a bit stupid to lead but fun to TR. Not much on the mixed walls. 7th Tentacle is doable but has a sporty start, Teriebel Traverse is dry as are Amphibian, Fatman & Robin, etc. Some new totally dry lines on the 7th Tentacle/Little Thang wall. Spiral Starcase is broken. Have to dry tool up 20' to get to the ice. Dec 23, 2002
The Fang and the Thang look good. The Thang isn't yet touching the ground but it working on it, 3 bolts are still exposed just right of the flow. The Designator is fat. The left side looked like steep stairs to a ladder. The right side isn't chopped out but has a lot of chandelier. Pro was ok and good stances are [available], but the two aren't found together. Jan 19, 2003
Spiral Staircase is relatively thin, but it makes for a super fun start. The Fang, Designator and Seventh Tentacle are all in good shape. They are probably a whole grade easier due to the abundance of solid hook placements. Mar 3, 2003
Reptile is a jug fest. there is actually one move that may baffle you but is still juggy and that is going from the lower ledge to upper im sure you will be fine. there are over 15 other lines in vail that are worthy as well and others that are possibly harder but who knows. Have fun Dec 30, 2003
Lay down that AC crap and show your name. Get real and stop taking the fun out of climbing. Jan 2, 2004
Joe Keyser
Scottsdale, AZ
Joe Keyser   Scottsdale, AZ
Rigid Designator, and surrounding climbs were formed up nicely as of 1/19/04. The left side of the curtain between the pencil, and the eraser formed up all the way to the ground, making a steep and exciting pillar. In my past trips to "the cave", this curtain was never close to touching all the way down. Felt about WI5+? The Eraser also seemed pretty steep comparable to past seasons (slightly overhanging hooks eased with stems off the curtain). I really wanted to stick-clip hang the draws on the mixed climb Quasimodo and go for it, but I just didnt have the guns to try that after a few laps on the blue stuff!!! Looks sweet though! Cold temperatures made for some rock hard ice in places. Spiral Staircase, and Slabbut are both in enjoyable shape, although stiff WI4 in the 6 degree temps we had on Monday! A partner, and good friend spotted some huge vertical ice up near here while snow-shoeing 2 miles up a deep gully this weekend. Details may come soon... Jan 20, 2004
Leo Paik
Westminster, Colorado
Leo Paik   Westminster, Colorado  
Sadly, the house just below the Fang/Desi amphitheatre is up for sale. Prior owners have been climber friendly. Mr. N? Any climbers out there interested in a 5BR, 4.5 BA, house for 3.2M? Jan 23, 2004
Any info on the ice conditions in east Vail as of mid March? When is the end of the season there usually? Mar 16, 2006