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Why Durango Is the Ultimate Year-Round Climbing Hub

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Photo credits (in order): Dan Holz, Heather Mobley, Karissa Frye

From my first visit to Durango some 20 years ago, I fell in love with the climbing in this area. I often find myself drawn to the type of climbing that our local crag East Animas has to offer, ideal for both the sport climber and traditional climber. Although two different mediums, ice climbing and rock climbing perfectly complement each other and enable you to climb year-round. If you want to experience them both, southwest Colorado will not let you down and is the reason I call this place home.

The routes can be challenging and rewarding at the same time, with a spectacular setting. I can climb line after line and never get tired of the climbing and views. But if it gets hot outside, Cascade Canyon is just a short drive up the gorgeous Animas Valley, where you’ll find cooler temps and great sport climbing that takes you above the towering pine forest amid muffled sounds of the cascading falls.

As autumn approaches, so does the perfect time to enjoy climbing in Durango — “Send-tember” and “Rock-tober” notably offer some of the best temperatures, plus you get to experience Colorado’s fall colors as you hike through the aspens to your sunny rock-climbing destination. As the seasons start to grow colder, I know that soon ice will be forming and my other method of climbing will soon be at my hands, but you can also almost always find dry rock on sunny, south-facing cliffs throughout the winter.

This variety is why Durango is such a great spot for the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup and North American Championship, which was held in December 2016. Seventy athletes from around the world came to our small town to compete against the best of the best in this sport. Colorado had five athletes compete against the top athletes representing some 20 countries. The international climbers that travel from far and wide can come here to compete and then easily travel around to climb in other locations, which keeps them wanting to come back, so we are working to bring the UIAA World Cup to Colorado again.

Video: UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup, courtesy of Adventure Pro

My love for all mediums of climbing eventually led me to begin teaching it to others, especially working with the youth of Colorado. On the individual level, climbing builds confidence, self-esteem and provides a healthy outlet for youth and adolescents to stay physically and mentally fit. Working with the next generation of climbers also ensures a bright future for the sport, which led me to establish Durango as the main training center for the future Olympic Games. As a result, I have been at the forefront of driving youth involvement and the development of the sport of competitive ice climbing as a new winter Olympic sport.

In February 2017, I took the first USA Youth Ice Team to France to compete in the UIAA Ice Climbing Youth World Championship. The new Team USA, comprised of seven youth athletes from Colorado, competed against much larger countries with teams in place for years. My dreams and dedication paid off as Team USA took third place and earned a spot on the podium at their first World Championships. I am working hard this year with the UIAA to build a bigger youth team and offer more competitions than what currently exist, putting Colorado at the center of Team USA. And while building the Youth Ice Team, I am actively helping grow Team USA for the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, as the youth team members are also the USA Olympic hopefuls.

Look for Marcus at the upcoming Ouray Ice Climbing Festival, Jan. 18–21, 2018, and find more Colorado winter events >>

Read up on learning to rock climb in Colorado >>