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Vail Ice

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East Vail Falls area 
Firehouse Area 
Grizzly Grotto, The 
Hell's Cave 
North Vail Ice 
Pencil & Eraser area aka Belfry 
Pumphouse & downhill 
Racquet Club Area 
Rigid Designator Amphitheatre 
Secret Stash/Cicle Area akaThe Club, The 
Spiral Staircase area 

Vail Ice  

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Elevation: 8,500'
Location: 39.6459, -106.332 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 337,415
Administrators: Ben Mottinger, Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Leo Paik on Mar 19, 2006
You & This Area
Best routes for YOU in this area
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RP going for the ice on the Fang off of Lucky. Se...


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
L. Golf Course chute - 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

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.0 miles from here

94 Total Routes

['4 Stars',19],['3 Stars',53],['2 Stars',17],['1 Star',4],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Vail Ice:
Pumphouse Falls   WI3-4     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch, 100'   Pumphouse & downhill
Fatman and Robin   M9     Mixed, 2 pitches   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
The Pencil   WI4-5     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch   Pencil & Eraser area aka Be...
The Mauling   M8     Sport, Mixed, 1 pitch, 75'   The Grizzly Grotto
8mm   M7     Trad, Mixed, 1 pitch   Spiral Staircase area
Godzilla   WI5 M8     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 1 pitch   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Lowe Gravity Day   WI4-5     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch   Firehouse Area
Firehouse Pillar   WI4-5     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch   Firehouse Area
The Eraser   WI4-5     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch   Pencil & Eraser area aka Be...
Built for Comfort   M9     Sport, Mixed, 1 pitch, 85'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Red Bull and Vodka   M11     Sport, Mixed, 2 pitches   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Spiral Staircase   WI4     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch, 80'   Spiral Staircase area
Octopussy   WI6 M7-8 R     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 2 pitches, 150'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
The Fang   WI5-6     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch, 130'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Secret Probation   WI5 M6-7     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 1 pitch, 80'   Spiral Staircase area
The Thang aka Frigid Inseminator   WI5+ M5+ R     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 1 pitch, 70'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Cupcake Corner   WI4-5 M5     Sport, Mixed, Ice, 1 pitch, 70'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Seventh Tentacle   WI5 M6     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 1 pitch   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Amphibian   WI5+ M9     Trad, Mixed, Ice, 2 pitches, 105'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Rigid Designator   WI5-     Trad, Ice, 1 pitch, 115'   Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
Browse More Classics in Vail Ice

Featured Route For Vail Ice
Brett almost onsighted it on his third try (that never gets old!)

Fatman and Robin M9  CO : CO Ice & Mixed : ... : Rigid Designator Amphitheat...
This route starts steep then relents to a mild traverse to good ice. After some stemming between rock and ice there is a short roof which leads to more stemming between rock and a more delicate hanging ice. At the top of the ice and after the third small overhang lies the slings.Per RYAN NELSON, pitch 2:Pete Takeda originally bolted this line, as a 2nd pitch to finish Fatman and Robin. I don't think it sees much traffic as it is mainly rock drytooling. Sustained, cool if you have done Vail's ...[more]   Browse More Classics in CO

Photos of Vail Ice Slideshow Add Photo
Image by <a href=Quang-Tuan Luong January 15, 1996. " />
BETA PHOTO: Image by Quang-Tuan Luong January 15, 1996.
Booth Creek ice climbs. <br />Saddam Insane area.
BETA PHOTO: Booth Creek ice climbs. Saddam Insane area.
This was taken a few weeks after the curtain fell 2001 (which happens every year). The curtain falls then reforms about 2 feet away from its original position, that is if your careful not to break it loose again. Yep, it's a stretch but if you just climb the ice a couple feet you have a great screw placement. <br />
This was taken a few weeks after the curtain fell ...
Clay's Pillar at Booth, lead by Brad Grohusky 12/11/05, climber in photo, Eric Lashinsky.
BETA PHOTO: Clay's Pillar at Booth, lead by Brad Grohusky 12/1...
Climbing The Fang in 1996. Notice the top is unattached by about 3 feet. It was near the end of the season and time to finish climbing on it.
Climbing The Fang in 1996. Notice the top is unatt...
The Frigid Inseminator.
The Frigid Inseminator.
Reptile is pretty fun route.
Reptile is pretty fun route.
Scott E. leading East Vail Falls in December, 2006.
Scott E. leading East Vail Falls in December, 2006...
Silly climber, ice is for drinks!
BETA PHOTO: Silly climber, ice is for drinks!
Rigid Designator Amphitheatre 12/06.
BETA PHOTO: Rigid Designator Amphitheatre 12/06.
The Frigid Inseminator.
The Frigid Inseminator.
FireHouse area from I-70 on 01-22-10. Note that there is an obvious left (East) side and right (West) side. Route details and comments are most helpful when referred to by left or right gullies.
BETA PHOTO: FireHouse area from I-70 on 01-22-10. Note that th...
Dragon's Tongue.  The slab and ice to the right is Tourette's.
BETA PHOTO: Dragon's Tongue. The slab and ice to the right is...
An unknown party (speak up so we know who you are) on The Rigid Designator on the first day of a new decade Jan. 1st, 2010.
An unknown party (speak up so we know who you are)...
Climber on the Frigid Inseminator.  12/29/07.
Climber on the Frigid Inseminator. 12/29/07.
The Fang in 1996.
The Fang in 1996.
Gordo on the ice.
Gordo on the ice.

Comments on Vail Ice Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Feb 14, 2014
By gregg purnell
From: Rifle, CO
Dec 15, 2001
Everything in Vail is in. To get your dosage of mixed ice films visit m9ice.com
By rich purnell
Dec 5, 2002
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........
By Russell McCullar
Dec 7, 2003
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.
By themostdirect
Feb 26, 2007
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.
By Scott Welsh
Dec 23, 2013
Does anyone know if the majority of the Vail ice is in as of 12/22/13?
By chills
From: Boulder, Colorado
Feb 14, 2014
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.