Ice climbing in Ouray, not just for the pros

When I told people I was going ice climbing in Ouray, they would say, “I didn’t know you were a climber.” I’m not a climber. I had never even sat in a harness until my first zip lining experience in 2012. However, when I was offered the chance to go ice climbing with San Juan Mountain Guides, for some crazy reason I said yes.

Heidi Ice Climbing in Ouray Photo by Ryan Schlaefer for March 2013

On our third day in Ouray, Ryan and I rose early, forgoing our morning soak in the Wiesbaden’s hot spring pool. We dressed warmly and drove the two blocks to San Juan Mountain Guides. Located in Ouray and Durango this company provides guides for all sorts of outdoor adventures, from ice climbing to canyoning.

They also rent equipment, which is good because climbing gear is pricey. A pair of ice climbing boots alone will set you back $700. Our guide, professional climber Dawn Glanc, got us all geared up and we drove the short 5 minutes to the Ouray Ice Park.

This is the only ice park of its kind in the United States, so it truly fits the definition of unique. It’s a magical place, so even if you don’t intent to climb, it’s worth the short drive to see it.

Other climbers in our section of the canyon at Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for

Other climbers in our section of the canyon at Ouray Ice Park.

Every January, the Ouray Ice Festival attracts around 1,000 ice climbers from around the world to the tiny town. More and more events are being established around the ice park, including Chicks with Picks, ice climbing clinics. Women are becoming increasingly interested in climbing, a sport primarily dominated by men.

We parked the car and walked up the muddy road to done our gear before heading into the park. The park is owned and managed by the City of Ouray and the nonprofit, Ouray Ice Park, Inc. The ice is farmed, meaning it is manmade using water pipes that are turned on to create nearly 200 ice and mixed climbs ranging from beginning to expert along a mile of canyon.

All geared up in harnesses, helmets, boots and crampons, Ryan, Dawn and I walked through the park, heading towards what’s referred to as The School Room – it’s where they train the newbies. My body grew stiff with apprehension as we traversed the metal walkway hanging high above the canyon.

This is a good time to tell you that I have a fear of heights. I’m pretty good going up a mountain, but I once sat atop a 14er and cried for a half hour when I realized I’d have to exit the peak down a slippery slope of shale. I’m not proud of this little incident, but it proves my point.

By the time we were positioned directly above The School Room I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to do this. Once Dawn told us that we’d need to crawl under the fencing and rappelling down the ice cliff face to get to the training area, I knew for sure that this wasn’t going to happen. The thin metal fence I’d been holding on to during our walk was the only thing between me and a precipice of ice that shot straight down into what I assumed was a frozen river bed and imminent death.

over the cliff at Ouray Ice Park

This is the cliff edge beyond the safety of the metal walkway & fencing.

Once he was attached to the rope, Ryan, the athlete in our family and a guy with absolutely no fear, got the go from Dawn. He ducked under the fence and vanished. I stood quietly as Dawn fed the rope to Ryan. For a while the only sound was the soft wind whispering through the canyon and the beating of my heart, now lodged firmly in my throat.

“We can walk down,” said Dawn.

I quietly considered this new plan as Dawn continued to feed Ryan rope. It seemed like a lot of rope. Was this a 500 foot drop off?

“We can also rappel down together,” said Dawn.

And then I realized something. If I didn’t rappel down that icy canyon, the one I was supposed to learn to climb up, the rest of the day was going to be a sham. How could I claim that I attempted to ice climb if I couldn’t make myself rappel to the start of the climb?

We went together, and I’ll admit, it was a terrifying experience, but somewhere in the middle of the rappel my heart rate steadied. I focused on the task at hand, as Dawn instructed. I focused on my feet and finally I was at the bottom of the canyon.

You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day.

My smile after rappelling with Dawn at the Ouray Ice Park photo by Ryan Schlaefer for

I had this smile for the rest of the day.

We went on to learn the basics of ice climbing. It’s all fairly straightforward and Ryan got it right way, making two climbs to the top before noon. I wasn’t quite so good, and although I did comprehend what I was supposed to be doing I couldn’t always get my muscles to respond properly.

Ryan nearing the top of the climb at the School Room at Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer for

Ryan nearing the top of the climb at the School Room at Ouray Ice Park.

Dawn Glanc is a gifted climbing instructor and has in incredible amount of patience and understanding. On our hike back up, which was actually another big hurdle for me because it was downright scary, she hooked up my harness so that I felt more secure.

So is this the end of my ice climbing career? Absolutely not. I would definitely try it again and perhaps I’d even advance to a solo rappel. Although before I do ice climbing, I may do some canyoning this summer, another growing sport in Ouray that involves rappelling into water falls. Sounds terrifyingly refreshing.

Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer and professional climber, Dawn Glanc at the Ouray Ice Park. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer for

Posing with my guide and instructor, professional climber, Dawn Glanc. Thank you Dawn!

If I can do this sport, you can do it! If you’d like to book a guided ice climbing trek with Dawn Glanc next winter it’s not too early because she books up fast. Dawn is a pro who travels the world climbing in amazing places like Iceland, Croatia and Greece, so be sure to like her Facebook page to follow her adventures. Also, please check out San Juan Mountain Guide’s online or on Facebook. Lastly, watch for Dawn Glanc at the ice climbing demonstrations at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

This climb was sponsored by the  Ouray Chamber Resort Association.

HeidiTown on the radio – Thankful for Colorado

First 14er Mt. Democrat

My first 14er, Mt. Democrat. Conquered in 2008. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving,  so of course, on this week’s radio segment on KRFC 88.9 FM, I’m sharing with listeners the things I’m most thankful for, and of course, I’ve added a Colorado twist.

I’m also sharing with my radio listeners some of the exciting changes that are happening around HeidiTown, and that includes more emphasis on Colorado travel.

Listen to the show HERE.

Happy Thanksgiving, citizens!



HeidiTown Gives Back: Cal-Wood Education Center (Boulder, Colorado)

Cal-Wood Education Center logo

Nature has always played a significant role in my life. I was born in a hospital that overlooked the Pacific Ocean, I grew up in a house in the woods and we spent family vacations at National Parks across the western United States. Through these experiences I developed a relationship with nature, and an intense respect for the natural world, but this isn’t the case for everyone.

Many people never have the opportunity to experience the great outdoors. There are children who are never exposed to a forest or wildlife, and this can result in apathy towards nature, or even fear of nature.

This month’s HeidiTown Gives Back Campaign recipient is Cal-Wood Education Center located on a 1,200 acre property northwest of Boulder, Colorado, and dedicated to teaching people about the environment since 1981. The mission of this nonprofit is to offer a unique outdoor educational experience to youth and adults.

Hummingbird at Cal-Wood Education Center this Spring 2012. Photo courtesy of the organization's Facebook page.

The goals of Cal-Wood Education Center:

  1. To help all who come to Cal-Wood to develop a greater appreciation for the natural world.
  2. To offer environmental education to those who would not otherwise experience it.
  3. To provide unique educational opportunities in a mountain setting.

I am happy to be donating one free month of ad space to this worthy organization. If you’d like to learn more about how Cal-Wood Education Center achieves their goals, visit them online at You can also join them on Facebook here. on KRFC 88.9 FM – What to do in Colorado February 3-5, 2012

ice bike racing evergreen winter festival

GOT SPIKES? The Ice Bike Race on Evergreen Lake, part of the Winter Festival on February 4. Register at (Photo from Evergreen Winter Festival on Facebook)

It’s another upside down week here in This post usually goes up on Thursday, but again, a writing conflict is interfering with the Tuesday post, so I’m posting this early.

The following is my weekly segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.

Listen to the audio –> HERE, or read the following transcript of the show.

Hi, my name is Heidi, and I’m the Mayor of, a blog about events, festivals and travel around Colorado.

Here’s the line up for this coming weekend, Friday, February 3 through Sunday, February 5.

First, I wanted to chat briefly about something I’ve noticed while browsing calendars around Northern Colorado. If you enjoy art, this is the place to be! Local calendars are always filled with art shows, art openings, artists meet and greets and art workshops. And with that, don’t forget that this weekend is First Friday Art Walk here in Fort Collins and in other community across the state.

As far as festivals this weekend, check out the Winter Festival at Evergreen Lake. This is a first annual event and runs Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It kicks off with a 5K SnowDash at Echo Mountain. Other events throughout the day include mountain bike races on the frozen lake, a snow sculpture competition, ice-skating, sleigh rides, fire works, live music, a beer garden and more. Bundle up and take the entire family to Evergreen this weekend. Learn more at

wine and chocolateIn Old Town Arvada this Saturday, starting at 11 a.m., it’s the 11th Annual Chocolate Affair. Yes, celebrate all things chocolate at this event in historic downtown. With chocolate tasting, a chocolate treasure hunt, a chocolate cookie contest and chocolate artistry, you’re going to want this festival with a side of milk! Find out all about this sugary event at

Last week I shared a snowshoe tour happening in Durango, this weekend there’s a Snowshoe Outing at the Bear Creek Nature Center in Colorado Springs. This guided hike is geared for beginners. Call the Bear Creek Nature Center for more information. As I mentioned before, guided snowshoe outings occur all over Colorado during the winter, so there’s bound to be one happening near you.

If you are headed up to do some skiing with the kids this weekend, check out Keystone Kidtopia on Saturday and Sunday. This is a festival designed with kids in mind. They can explore the ultimate Snow Fort, dance to live music in the plaza, make arts and crafts, go Disco Tubing and join in activities on and off the slopes. The snowfort is open daily at 11 a.m. There will be additional Kidtopia weeks on February 17-20, March 10-14 and March 18-21. More at

Fairies wear boots Ska Brewing beer logo

This year's special Snowdown beer is Faeries Wear Boots Gingerbread Brown Ale by Ska Brewing.

And don’t forget, Durango’s ultimate winter festival, Snowdown is underway and runs through February 5! Outside Magazine rates this as one of the top winter festival in North America and it made my top 5 Colorado Winter Festivals not to be missed list. At Snowdown, Durango pay homage to the silly things that happen when a person gets cabin fever with event like a polar plunge, a burp off, arm wrestling competitions, snow golf and plenty more hilarious activities that help ward off the winter blues. Each year has a different theme so head over to to find out the theme for 2012.

For those who like to plan ahead, a great winter festival is just around the corner, Steamboat Springs Carnival runs February 8 through the 12th. I LOVE this event and have written about it several times on

Also coming up it’s the Winter Teva Mountain Games in Vail on February 10 through the 12th. The Summer Teva Games is a celebration of adventure sports, music and mountain lifestyle, so the Winter Mountain Games are a celebration of winter adventure sports and lifestyle. Visit for details.

That’s all for this week. Remember, I can’t fit it all into the radio show, so be sure you have joined the town’s block party on Facebook at Lots of additional events and festivals are posted there on a daily basis. As always, you can chat with me anytime on Twitter @HeidiTown.  The town is also now on Google Pus. Until next week, I’ll see you online!

Thanks for listening!

HeidiTown on KRFC 88.9 FM – What to do in Colorado this weekend

The following is the transcript from HeidiTown’s weekly radio segment on  KRFC 88.9 FM  in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Covering the weekend of January 6-8, 2012.

Listen to the audio —>  HERE.

Hi, my name is Heidi and I’m the mayor of, a blog about events, festivals and road trips around Colorado.

It’s looking like January is a rather quiet month in Northern Colorado, so if you know of an event or festival in the area please, please email me about it! You can reach me at

Postage stampHere’s the lineup for Friday, January 6 through Sunday, January 8, 2012.

Here in Fort Collins it’s First Friday Featuring Gallery Walk. Nineteen business participate from 6 to 9 p.m. It will be a great night to be in downtown. For more information and a list of all participating businesses and sponsors go to

This Friday at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden, Colorado, it’s the 38th Annual Cherrleyn Postage Stamp Show from 12 to 5 p.m. There will be 29 dealers and millions of stamps, postcards and postal history. This event is open to the public.

On Saturday, at the same venue it’s the Intermountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society’s 14th annual model railroading and memorabilia vendor extravaganza. The event runs from 9 to 4 with early bird entry at 7:15. Visit for all events taking place at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

roosterI found a couple agricultural related events happening this weekend, which I thought was a bit odd for January, but then again, this is a slow month.

This Saturday visit the Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont on St. Vrain Road. Open from 10 to 5, the center is a place to learn about the rich agricultural history of Boulder County. This site focuses on 1900 to 1925 and the farm includes a farmhouse built in 1909 and furnished from that area, two barns, an outhouse, a milkhouse, a blacksmith shop and there are animals on the site seasonally. Tours start at 11 a.m. For more information visit

At the Plains Conservation Center in Aurora, families can learn about farm chores this Saturday starting at 9 a.m. Take a wagon ride to Wells Crossing and discover how pioneers survivied on the prairie help feed farm animals. More at

This is a good time of year to visit your local museum, and there are quite a lot of good ones all across Colorado. I’ve written about several of my person favorites on under the Museum tab.

Here’s a fun activity happening at SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch. From January 7 to April 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. every Saturday enjoying night skiing and tubing under the lights. Visit for details.

Ullr Fest in Breckenridge Colorado by Carl Scofield

Ullr Fest in Breckenridge, Colorado. Photo by Carl Scofield. Provided by

On Sunday, January 8, it’s the start of a 48 year tradition in Breckenridge, Colorado. Ullr Fest takes place through January 14 and during this wacky week viking hats are the fashion accessory of choice in Breck. Ooler, is spelled Ullr and in Norse mythology he is the son of Sif and the stepson of Thor, the God of Thunder. Ullr loves the cold and loves to party and so does Breckenridge. This crazy festival includes Ullrlympics, where the Ullrympions fling frying pans for prizes, and it also includes a parade that entices 12,000 revelers to the streets of Breckenridge. Visit for more details.

That’s it for this week. As always, follow me on Twitter @HeidiTown and join the town’s block party on Facebook at HeidiTown.comonFB.

Thanks for listening!

Foote Lagoon Concert Series is just around the corner!

The Elders at the Foote Lagoon in Loveland, Colorado

The Elders play the Foote Lagoon Concert Series in 2009. The band out of Kansas City always draws a huge crowd. Photo by H.M. Kerr-Schlaefer. All rights reserved.

This is one of my favorite events of the summer and because it’s on a Thursday night it doesn’t interfere with my crazy weekend festival schedule.

I like lots of things about this festival – the proximity to downtown Loveland, the beautiful setting and the floating stage.

The 2011 musical lineup for Loveland’s Foote Lagoon Concert Series has been announced and I’m very excited to see fiddle players on the list.

A lagoon favorite, the Elders, aren’t coming this year, which I know will prove disappointing to many of their loyal fans.  While they will be missed, the line up at the lagoon looks fun and lively.


HeidiTown Tip: While many families enjoy these concerts, these evenings make great date nights. I recommend packing a picnic or getting take out from one of Loveland’s downtown restaurants and make an entire evening out of the affair!


Walking in a Winter Wonderland (Northern Colorado)

The Mayor of HeidiTown snowshoeing outside Nederland, Colorado. Photo by Ryan Schlaefer, all right reserved.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy the outdoors and wildlife. I checked a couple Northern Colorado newspaper calendars to gather this information and you can check your local newspaper for winter walks and hikes in your area.

From birding walks to snowshoeing, these Northern Colorado events will educated you and provide exercise too!

Loveland, CO – Wintertime Wildlife Hike

Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail

FREE event

Join volunteer naturalist, Bob, at the trail head at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15 for this three-hour guided hike on one of the Mayor’s favorite Northern Colorado trails (see the Mayor’s recent Best of NoCo Trails aricle on CBS Denver). Watch for birds, and be amazed by the beauty of the naturally formed rock formation that is the highlight of this natural area. Be sure to wear weather appropriate clothing and bring water, camera and binoculars if you’ve got a pair. For more information on this natural area go to this website.

The Devil’s Backbone is located west of Loveland on the north side of Hwy 34 off of Hidden Valley Drive.

Fort Collins – Eagle Watch

Fossil Creek Open Space

FREE event

Sat., January 15 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. &  Sat.,  February  12 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Bald eagles migrate from Canada and Alaska to winter in south Fort Collins at the Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space. At these two events you have the opportunity to join the Fort Collins Natural Areas Program’s Master Naturalists to learn and watch these amazing bird. Wear weather appropriate clothing, and be prepared for a short walk along a paved trail to the viewing area. Binoculars and scopes will be provided. For more information on the Fossil Creek natural area go to their website.

Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space is on Carpenter Road/ CR 32, approximately one mile west of I-25, or two miles east of Timberline on the north side of Carpenter Road.

Fort Collins – Wintertime Plant Walk

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space

FREE event, but there is a $6 day use fee to use the open space

This three-hour wintertime plant walk starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday, January 15. Naturalist Kathy leads this guided walk and she will explain how plants survive the harsh winter and she will point out various plant species along the way. The trail may be slipper so wear appropriate shoes and bring water.

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space is located along CR 38E, 5 miles west of the intersection of Harmony and Taft Hill roads in Fort Collins.

Estes Park – Winter Trails Day

Rocky Mountain National Park

FREE event

This event occurs at 100 resorts and Nordic centers around the country. It gives adults and children the chance to try out snowshoeing and cross-country skiing for free. In Estes the event will take place at Rocky Mountain National Park on Sat., January 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drive to the park entrance to get directions. For more information about Winter Trails Day, visit  their website.

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Winter Wonderlights


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