Elevation: 8,500 ft
GPS: 39.646, -106.332 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 137,068 total · 861/month
Shared By: Leo Paik on Mar 19, 2006
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac


Dang those organizing types. Why couldn't we just leave this area a mess and let climbers figure it all out? Shucks, we're just being helpful 'round these parts.

This is a decidedly popular ice area. It is north-facing, so dress warmly. It is easily visible from the road. While most of the popular areas are listed here, there certainly is more ice that forms up here.

This area holds a great variety of of 1-2 pitch ice and mixed routes. If you get to climb here, you'll likely leave with a smile. This is probably the birthplace for Colorado modern mixed climbing with Jeff Lowe's ascent of Octopussy, although Alex Lowe's influence was strong, too.

Parking is a hassle since the town of Vail outlaws on-the-street parking. So, don't assume anything or you'll be made to pay.

Snow can pile up. It can even avalanche.

Access issues can be problematic. Check things out first.

Occasionally rappel trees fail. So, beware!

On the South side (E->W): Racquet Club, Firehouse, Secret Cicle, East Vail Falls, Hell's Cave, Big Gully ice, Spiral Stairs/Belfry, RD Amphitheatre, Pumphouse, 9th Hole.

On the North Side (E->W): Booth Creek, Goat Beard, Piney Lake Pillar.

Getting There

This is located approximately 100 miles West of Denver. Most folks will use I-70 to access this area. The East Vail exit is most useful for most of these climbs. Parking is a hassle. Probably, the locals know the best scoop on parking. It's best to find a legal spot and expect to walk a bit further than you'd like or just buy one of these little shacks and cough up a mil or two.

Odd tidbit for 2007: there seem to be conflicting signs posted near Pumphouse where one sign suggests climbers need to pay to cross the golf course, but other signs do not.

General Layout of Ice

There is varying nomenclature for the ice and chutes on the north-facing areas. Here are the general areas (east->west):

A. Raquet Club area
B. Firehouse area
C. Secret Stash
D. East Vail Falls
E. Big Gully Ice aka Porzak Chute
F. Hell's Cave
G1. Spiral Staircase area
above - G2. Belfry
H. Rigid Designator Amphitheater
I. Pumphouse
J. 19th Fairway
K. 9th Hole
Vail, CO Golf Course chute. The snow patch behind us is usually a triple ice cliff. This day it made for a perfect jump. - no ice
M. Golden Peak chute - no ice

On the south-facing areas (east->west):
N. Booth Creek
O. Goat's Beard
P. Piney Lake Pillar

97 Total Climbs

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Location: Vail Ice Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at Vail Ice

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
The Pencil
Trad, Ice
The Eraser
Trad, Ice
Spiral Staircase
Trad, Ice
The Fang
Trad, Ice
Rigid Designator
Trad, Ice
WI5 M6
Seventh Tentacle
Trad, Mixed, Ice
WI5 M6
Secret Probation
Trad, Mixed, Ice
Pumphouse Falls
Trad, Ice
WI5+ M5+ R
The Thang aka Frigid Inseminator
Trad, Mixed, Ice
WI5+ M9
Trad, Mixed, Ice 2 pitches
WI4-5 M5
Cupcake Corner
Sport, Mixed, Ice
Red Bull and Vodka
Sport, Mixed 2 pitches
"Dolly Madison"
Sport, Mixed
WI6 M6+ R
Trad, Mixed, Ice 2 pitches
King Cobra/King Cobra Extension
Sport, Mixed
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Pencil Pencil & Eraser area…
WI4+ Trad, Ice
The Eraser Pencil & Eraser area…
WI4 Trad, Ice
Spiral Staircase Spiral Staircase area
WI4- Trad, Ice
The Fang Rigid Designator Amph…
WI5-6 Trad, Ice
Rigid Designator Rigid Designator Amph…
WI5- Trad, Ice
Seventh Tentacle Rigid Designator Amph…
WI5 M6 Trad, Mixed, Ice
Secret Probation Spiral Staircase area
WI5 M6 Trad, Mixed, Ice
Pumphouse Falls Pumphouse & downhill
WI3-4 Trad, Ice
The Thang aka Frigid Insemi… Rigid Designator Amph…
WI5+ M5+ R Trad, Mixed, Ice
Amphibian Rigid Designator Amph…
WI5+ M9 Trad, Mixed, Ice 2 pitches
Cupcake Corner Rigid Designator Amph…
WI4-5 M5 Sport, Mixed, Ice
Red Bull and Vodka Rigid Designator Amph…
M11 Sport, Mixed 2 pitches
"Dolly Madison" Rigid Designator Amph…
M6 Sport, Mixed
Octopussy Rigid Designator Amph…
WI6 M6+ R Trad, Mixed, Ice 2 pitches
King Cobra/King Cobra Exten… Rigid Designator Amph…
M10 Sport, Mixed
More Classic Climbs in Vail Ice »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season
gregg purnell
gregg purnell   Colorado
Everything in Vail is in. To get your dosage of mixed ice films visitm9ice.com Dec 15, 2001
Vail amphitheater most all mixed climbs are in: Amphibian, Fatman & Robin, 7th [Tentacle], Little [Thang] - not in at all but - Pitch [Black], Lucky, [Reptile], [Somnambulist], [Resurrection], [Teriebel] Traverse and the route way left of the Designator "[Dr.] Delicate?" are in and good ([hasn't] come in in a long time). The Belfry (above staircase) all routes including [Pencil] and [Eraser] are climbable and need done. Secret [Probation] also in "thin" as are the routes left of the "[Spiral Staircase]". Lots of water in the area - yehaww! game is on lets climb........ Dec 5, 2002
Hi all. Is there another name for Pumphouse falls? The climb near the golf course west of the Designator area. Is it in this database. Looking for manageable WI-3-4 first time lead in the Vail area Dec. 27-Jan 2.

Any help greatly appreciated. Dec 7, 2003
Lost Camera at Pitkin Falls!!! She is an old school Powershot with 3.2 megapixel resolution. Left behind the curtain on Sunday February 25. I'm back in Crested Butte but will return that way soon. Help a brother out. The Falls were great, bullet hard on the left, but a small hole opening up top. Feb 26, 2007
Does anyone know if the majority of the Vail ice is in as of 12/22/13? Dec 23, 2013
Boulder, Colorado
chills   Boulder, Colorado
Vail is fat. Check it out now!!
Just a heads up, we all need to be courteous and conscious of the ski tracks on the golf course. Stay on climber/snowshoe trails, and be careful when crossing ski tracks.
I spoke with the manager of the Nordic center, and as of 2/13/14, there are no fees for climbers, but if they continue to have problems with people disregarding the access they have provided, they will close the Pumphouse parking, and to access Fang/Designator, you will have to park at main Nordic entrance more than doubling the approach.
Let's try to preserve the amazing access to even more flows.

Thank you and my best.
Chris Feb 14, 2014
James Cobb
Centennial, CO
James Cobb   Centennial, CO
I have been to Vail many times, hiked up to The Fang and Rigid Designator during the summer, and have seen the bolts and the permadraws. I was wondering if anyone has climbed the rock during the summer? What, if any routes, are up there? I don't ice climb, but the rock looks like it may have some lines up it. Any info is appreciated. Thanks. Apr 4, 2017