The mountains surrounding Ouray are home to some of the finest alpine mountaineering and rock climbing routes in all of Colorado. Although better known in the climbing community for its incredible winter climbing, Ouray also possesses fantastic opportunities for summer adventure. The San Juan Mountain Range is the lW&W argest group of mountains in Colorado and remains virtually pristine when compared to other heavily used areas on the Front Range. The San Juan's rugged topography creates a landscape of jagged peaks and sweeping alpine basins that beckons to all adventurers who see them. It is within these complex mountains that early climbers first set foot.
For those staying in Ouray there are two sub-ranges that hold the most opportunities for mountaineering: the Sneffels Range and the Cimarrons. The Sneffels Range lies to the north and west of Ouray with a number of different access points from Ouray. Best known to travelers as the expansive panorama that paints the skyline as they drive south from Montrose, the Sneffels Range also holds a good concentration of mountaineering objectives for all levels. Mt. Sneffels is the highest peak in the group at 14,150 feet and remains one of the most coveted summits among Rocky Mountain climbers. The standard south slope route remains the most popular means of ascent by most parties with limited mountain skills. However, classic routes on Mt. Sneffels require good judgment and experience in exposed terrain. The north face of Mt. Sneffels is a soaring alpine objecive that tests even the most seasoned alpinists, while the southwest ridge is a classic moderate route that sees relatively few ascents each year. There are also many other peaks in the Sneffels Range with equally good climbing including: Teakettle, Gilpin Peak, Kismet, and Dallas Peak. While the technical difficulty can vary greatly on these different peaks, one thing remains the same for all of them. They all require good planning, navigation skills and proper equipment to safely enjoy.
The Cimarrons to the east of Ouray also hold a wealth of mountaineering to all levels of climber. Uncompahgre Peak and Wetterhorn Peak are both over 14,000 feet but differ greatly in their challenges. Uncompahgre can be surmounted with little more than a long hike, while Wetterhorn offers technical difficulties and tricky route finding on most routes. Along with these well-known peaks, there also exist a number of less famous mountains with incredible opportunities. While Horse Peak, Coxcomb Peak, and Matterhorn all have great routes to rarely-climbed summits, these lower peaks are climbed less often simply because they do not reach the magical 14,000 foot elevation, but they still offer the remote mountain experience that embodies the San Juans.
Ouray is also in a good location for those interested in rock climbing. There are a number of good alpine rock climbs in the high mountains, as well as smaller crags right around town. The prominent Chimney Peak offers a great multi-pitch outing in a spectacular setting. The best known climb of the area is the North Buttress of Mt. Sneffels. While it only receives a 5.7 rating, this is a serious climb. Its combination of remoteness, altitude, and difficult route finding make it a daunting task even for today's experienced climbers. At a lower elevation, the Black Canyon is one of the country's premier climbing destinations. Only a short drive from Ouray, "The Black" is home to Colorado's biggest cliff face and numerous high-quality climbs. However, its reputation as an experts-only area is well deserved. The climbs here are very committing and must be taken seriously. It is highly recommended that you climb with someone familiar with the area or hire one of the local guide services to show you the vertical wonders of this incredible canyon. If you are looking for a little less adventure, Ouray also has many small crags that are easy to top-rope and bolted sport climbs to test your limits. These crags are scattered around and require a local's knowledge to fully enjoy. Ask around town, and at the sports shop for information.
Ouray is an unknown climbing destination with a good variety of opportunities for motivated mountaineers. The San Juans offer solitude and great routes for all experience levels. Do your homework, use the proper gear and get out there and enjoy the high backcountry of the "Switzerland of America", Ouray, Colorado.
The Ouray Canyon Club hosts this annual festival. The theme this year will be "Canyoneering Around the World"
Bring your skates and climbing gear for great day!