Hanging On the Edge: Ice Climbing Summit County

Your heart is pounding, your hands are getting numb, you are clinging 20 feet up in the air to a frozen icicle, and you ask yourself, how did I get here? The answer is simple, you decided to take a break from skiing to try another of winter’s offerings, ice climbing, and you couldn’t be happier.

While Breckenridge and Vail are famed for their endless skiing, most snow sliders do not realize that the area is also home to world-class ice and mixed climbing. Thanks to the wow factor of climbs like The Rigid Designator (WI5), the sport seems supernatural, the realm of the extreme athlete, but it is not. How can I do this you ask?  Enter Avon based Apex Mountain School which has 20+ years experience of guided ice climbing for all levels from beginner to advanced.

Apex Mountain School is helmed by Scott Smith a professionally trained guide with 25 years experience and claims a bevy of accomplished guides with professional credentials. The 12 guides on roster have ticked off numerous Everest summits, historic ski accents and include the first person to camp on the top of all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot summits.

A day of ice climbing can be a chilly affair so dress appropriately with numerous synthetic layers, warm gloves, a waterproof/breathable shell and, most importantly, a large down jacket to keep warm in between climbs. For lunch pack insulated bottles of hot soup and coffee to make the experience a bit more pleasurable. Apex will provide you with boots, crampons, ice axes and other climbing gear. Plan on being out six to eight hours and climbing several routes during a typical day. Costs range from $154 for a group of five to $350 for a private session and they have successfully guided clients from eight to seventy eight—so no excuses.

Relaxing watching the sun settle over Summit County you might find yourself chuckling listening to others talk about their day skiing. Sure they hit the bumps but anyone can do that, you faced your fears victoriously. As Edmund Hillary said “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”.

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