Utah is a hub of outdoor recreation at any time of year. But if you aren’t into skiing, what can you do once all that “greatest snow on earth” starts to fall? With the right gear, climbing season doesn’t need to end. Utah is full of ice climbing routes, and if you’re in Ogden, you have some in your own backyard.
This is not a comprehensive guide to these routes. Ice climbing can be a dangerous, unforgiving venture if you come unprepared. Before you attempt any of these climbs, make sure you have the right gear and do your research. Winter climbing means avalanche danger, and a fall with ice climbing gear could easily be deadly. But if you take necessary precautions, ice climbing can be one of your most challenging and rewarding outdoor experiences.
The most consistently available ice climb in the Ogden area is Malan’s Waterfall, accessible from the 29th St. trailhead into Waterfall Canyon. This is also one of Ogden’s most popular hikes. The landowner allows access to the falls, but be sure to respect the area to keep it available for future hikers and climbers.
The first pitch is fairly consistent, but the upper pitches of the waterfall get more sun. You’ll have a safer climb if you go early in the morning and avoid the warmer parts of the day, when the upper pitches start to break up.
Because this is a popular climb, you can find plenty of videos and articles online about how the different routes work.
Great Amphitheater Gully
This climb is much rarer than Malan’s Waterfall, but if you can catch it at the right time, it is worth the hike to get there. You can access the gully by hiking up the trail above Douglas Street in Ogden.
The whole area is exposed to sunlight, so you’ll probably encounter mixed conditions. Be sure to get a sense of conditions all the way up before you start climbing, and plan for contingencies.
There’s no guarantee this one will cooperate, but if you hear the ice is on in the gully, it is definitely worth the effort to go.
Willard Canyon Falls
If you’re willing to go a little more out of the way, you can head up to Willard Canyon. Go behind the Willard Cemetery and head east for a half mile. Take the right fork to a parking lot at the end of the road, then cross the creek and hike up toward the canyon.
The falls consist of four pitches with some steeper sections that are a fun challenge. The area is prone to avalanches, so go after the falls have frozen but before the snow really sets in.
There is a trail at the top that leads back to the base. The trail can be slick so be aware of avalanche conditions before attempting this route.
Did You Know?
The crampon is arguably the best thing to happen to ice climbing—they allow a climber to have incredible traction when climbing an ice wall, traversing glaciers, and snowfields. But prior to the invention of the ice tool in 1908 by Oscar Eckenstein, climbers and adventurers had to use a method called “step cutting,” a laborious process by which climbers had to cut footholds into the snow and ice with a pick or axe, to gain and maintain footing.