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Boulder Canyon - Ice

Colorado > CO Ice & Mixed


This is an old stomping grounds for ice climbers cutting their teeth. Ice climbing here dates back to the 1950s or 60s. Water dribbled in from a variety of sources, including leaks in an aqueduct, springs, and for a period ice farming. This was once a fledgling ice park. Now, a struggling ice area with a few glimmers of hope.

Ice climbers have climbed routes along this little canyon including near the mouth of the canyon (private property), near Cob Rock?, Lower Boulder Falls, Vampire Rock, Black Widow Rock, assortment low-angle flows, the area S of Castle Rock, and a few areas upstream from Castle Rock. Due to various reasons, the ice farming stopped, and the traditional leaks (mostly repaired) of the aqueduct and low-angle spring flows are what remain of the ice opportunities in the canyon.

So, if you're looking for some low-end to moderate, nearly-roadside ice, you may find something here to climb during cold months like late November to late March.

Remember, this is a limited resource in an area over-represented with climbers, so please respect each other and the ice & rock. For you mixed aficienados, please refrain from dry tooling on established Boulder Canyon rock routes. In the past, this has led to conflicts. Picks are meant to penetrate ice & hook rock, not penetrate skulls. Have fun!

Getting There

This canyon lies West of Boulder, a small, climber-rich community Northwest of Denver. From Denver, head Northwest on US 36 to Boulder. At CO Hwy 119, aka Canyon, go West and enter the canyon. Keep your eyes peeled for ice. From Nederland and along the Peak to Peak, head down CO Hwy 119 East towards Boulder.

It is probably not be worth the drive if you are coming from areas further afield until/unless the ice farming is allowed to resume.

Please park in legal sites so as not to incite the wrath of CDOT. Remember, CDOT thinks of some of these pullouts as their territory.


Please carefully check the regulations at the particular ice venues before permanently altering the rock. The canyon consists of a complex gridwork of different landowners. Each landowner may have different regulations. Some have even posted them on site. This is important for maintaining good relations and climber access. Thanks.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

BH on nice blue ice in Boulder Canyon.
[Hide Photo] BH on nice blue ice in Boulder Canyon.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Bob Berger
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Saw and article in the Camera last week that mentioned that the aqueduct in Boulder Canyon was going to be shut-down for repairs and that the work should take two months.

I'm kinda new, but won't this dramatically affect the ice in Boulder Canyon? Eds. Yep. Oct 15, 2001
Leo Paik
Westminster, Colorado
[Hide Comment] A report on the pipeline from an ice climber: "I talked to somebody today at the Coop in Ned that is working on repairing the pipeline! This week they fixed all but one leak, so there may be no ice in Boulder Canyon anymore. They're working on the last leak." Nov 28, 2001
Malcolm Daly
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] On a drive through Boulder Canyon I spotted ice. The lower falls, left, are in, but not huge, and there is a bit forming up in the center and right slab. At the upper falls there are 2-3 lines possible, not thick and huge, but climbable. Talked to Steve Pomerance yesterday and got an update about the water situation. The ditch is fixed so not much in the way of artificial flows, but natural ice (oh my god!) does form from streamflows and melting. Everything seems to be lined up to farm ice there but the Forest Circus thinks a study needs to be made and possibly a concession permit issued. Clearly, this will take many bureaucratic years. Our friendly climbing congressman, Mark Udall, has offered to try to speed things up. Yeah! Mark. Don't forget to donate to his campaign.

The road to the Hesse Chimney is still drivable w/ 4WD but there's no ice. According to reports it's good when it's dry, but I don't see the point. Dec 5, 2001
[Hide Comment] Did the Middle Flow late this afternoon. Cold and brittle. A layer of snow crust had to be hacked out to get to the better ice. The lower angle section after the short vertical part has about 6-10" of snow on top of it. Not to bad if your going this weekend, probably have to clear some snow though, helpful if one of your tools has an adze. Enjoy! Mar 1, 2002
[Hide Comment] I heard a rumor that there might be some "farming" going on in the canyon this winter. Any idea if there is any truth to the rumors...?? Sep 23, 2002
[Hide Comment] I took a look this last weekend, and I didn't see any Ice forming yet. The lower falls appeared to have nothing, and the upper falls had a little, but im sure what was there has melted out. Nov 6, 2002
[Hide Comment] I took a look this last weekend, and I didn't see any Ice forming yet. The lower falls appeared to have nothing, and the upper falls had a little, but im sure what was there has melted out. Nov 6, 2002
[Hide Comment] Boulder Canyon Ice 11/10/2: There is a bit of ice with some short vertical pillars on the left most of the traditional flows at the lower ice falls. It peters out to dribbles after about 80 feet. Center and Right are wet rock. There is a bit of ice at the upper falls; however, beware, it's totally detached and won't take too much abuse. Best to TR delicately. At least there is water flowing to build up more ice in the future. The creek is not much of a deterrent. Nov 10, 2002
[Hide Comment] Boulder Canyon is growing but needs some time to build up. Climbers need to hold off a little while longer so this can grow. If you must climb, please use caution while climbing here because the ice is not completely bonded to the rock and could break. Would suggest TR vs leading. Nov 12, 2002
[Hide Comment] Did right and left lower falls, (okay my partner led them) in Boulder Canyon on Dec. 28. Nice, a bit thin, but had the place to ourselves.

Cruised up to upper Boulder Canyon stuff, nice and steep, in pretty well considering it was 60 degrees in town. Parnter led right flow for fun, TR'd the middle column. Not bad if you aren't too picky. Dec 30, 2002
[Hide Comment] I climbing just west of Cob Rock January 2, 2003 and there are a few good climbs off the road but they are all narrow. If you trek back into the trees to the left of them you find some real solid ice and few real wide falls. Jan 8, 2003
[Hide Comment] Upper Falls are developed. While the lower falls look thin, and not worthwhile. These last couple of warm days are not helping the conditions. Jan 9, 2003
[Hide Comment] From seeing the ice conditions in the canyon a week apart, I will be surprised if the lower falls will even be there in 2 weeks. The upper falls are starting to melt out, and are very wet. Feb 2, 2003
[Hide Comment] Checked out the ice at Castle Rock on 2/22/03, first climbs you come to don't really exist this year. The main flow is short, missing a lot of ice and all hacked up. The second area has one pitch of so so ice. Drove to the nest turn off, ice area and there were six cars parked there. Didn't go up but in between the many top ropes I saw good looking ice. Slimmest I've seen in the last 5 years.

Chad Feb 25, 2003
William McGehee
Choctaw, OK
[Hide Comment] Ice is moderately in on Lower Falls and mixed conditions at Upper. TR conditions thus far. Wait a while. It'll be there! Dec 14, 2003
Doug Barker
Centennial, CO
[Hide Comment] Why can't there be decent ice in Boulder Canyon for 2010? I'm not expecting it to be like Vail or Ouray, but if it's cold enough, shouldn't there be something local that we can kick and pick? Help me understand what the issues are with this controversial pipe.... May 5, 2009
Bruce Pech
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] The City and interested climbers attempted to negotiate releases from the aqueduct at the Lower Falls a few years ago. Liability and property ownership issues exist and the idea was shelved. As far as I know, neither climbers nor Boulder have revisited the matter. May 7, 2009