Eureka, Colorado

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Colorado, United States, North America
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
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Eureka, Colorado
Created On: Jan 11, 2006
Last Edited On: Jan 12, 2018


Sunrise, Eureka
Sunrise, Eureka

This page was originally designed by CClaude, I am just the editor. Would like to keep it updated, but some people believe that ice climbs should be kept private, no information posted, and you should go to Mountain Projects and guiding books for more information. I may not be adding much more to this site. Liba

Eureka is a popular ice climbing destination in the winter. It is located south of Ouray, just outside the historic town of Silverton. The area has a lot to offer, not just ice climbing in the late fall and throughout the winter. There is also great back country skiing, and a cross country ski trail from Eureka to Silverton. Summer brings many people to drive the scenic alpine loop, hike the peaks, or visit many ghost towns in the area. There are even developed rock climbing routes in Eureka. 

Ice Climber Hut
Ice Climber Hut
Eureka is a mining ghost town along the Animas River between Silverton and Animas Forks. The town got its start in 1860 when a small group of miners began to dig and pan around the banks of the Animas River. The train service came to town in 1896. The Sunnyside mill was the main economic source for the town. When the mill closed in 1938, Eureka was no more. What are left are foundations that climb the mountain sides reminders of the town that was. 
There are not many buildings left. 

Campground at Eureka is open during the summer. There is an ice climbing hut open year round, it has bunk beds for 4 people (bring your own sleeping bags), bench, which can accommodate 2 more climbers and a sofa. It is owned by the same people who own Eureka Lodge. There is a wood burning stove for heat, no electricity. You pay 10$ per night into a jar - honor system. It was meant to accommodate people on first come first serve basis, but some reserve it by e-mailing Eureka Lodge. Climbers should share it and a couple taking it for themselves for the whole weekend does not seem fair. 
Eureka Lodge (formerly Outward Bound Hotel) is open year round. E-mail regarding accommodations, there is no cell phone reception. Owners Terri and Bob are very nice, they can come and pick you at the parking lot with their snowmobile or snow cat. Terri offers also a breakfast and does not mind to prepare it for your early alpine start. The Lodge has 17 rooms, is rustic and truly an amazing place to visit. The hot tub overlooks the ice climb Stairway to Heaven - it is so much fun to sit in hot tub after climbing and watching climbers…. I was sitting in a hot tub and stretching while my partner was observing a slow party of three climbers on Stairway. He said: "leaders fall" and seemed very excited. I was wondering why did he get so excited about my liter of bottle falling inside the hot tub - I heard liter fall… anyway, he witnessed a leader fall on the crux pitch of Stairway to Heaven, the climber seemed uninjured. 

The rumor has it there may be building an ice park in the Eureka Gulch within the next few years. So, let's wait and get surprised with the happenings of the future. 

Getting There

From the Main Street in Silverton, continue onto good dirt road - Hwy 110 - which is snowplowed for the first 9 miles. (I would like to mention that both maps and guidebooks call the road 110, but when passing through Silverton, 110 will take you to the Silverton Ski Area, so turn right onto the County Road 2). Park at the large parking lot on the west side of the road. There is a dry toilet (hard to access in the winter since the door gets often buried in the snow, and if the door is accessible the toilet tends to be very dirty). 

You can see directly from the parking lot to the east Niagara Gulch with the ice climb of Whorehouse Hoses (only an upper section of the falls is seen). For other climbs, continue on the country road, which is not snowplowed. There is usually a climber's trail. You will pass a turn off for the Eureka Lodge (don't go there unless you are staying there). Continue up the road to your ice climbs, soon an amazing view of Stairway to Heaven will appear. Opposite to Stairway to Heaven are First Gully, Second Gully, and Goldrush. There are many more ice climbs in the area, but since I was getting private messages about not publishing any more climbs and me being the cause of the area being over crowded, I am not going to post any more of the climbs. Those 5 are the most popular ones and especially Stairway can be very busy - I witnessed 9 climbers on this ice climb! All climbing a the same time and chunks of ice flying everywhere. 

Ice Climbing

Pitch 3 - Stairway to Heaven
Crux pitch - Stairway to Heaven
Approach to Whorehouse Hoses
Approach to Whorehouse Hoses
The area around Eureka is a popular ice climbing destination, with multi pitch climbs ranging from WI3 to WI5. 

SP offers description of some of the climbs: Whorehouse Hoses WI 4-5 (my favorite, and also on the Top of 100 Ice Climbs in the World per Guy Lacelle), Stairway to Heaven WI 4+ (more difficult than Second Gully), First Gully WI 3 (easy rolling ice), Second Gully WI 4 (easy rolling ice, with only a short section of WI 4), and Goldrush WI 4+.

Below not edited - as written by CClaude. (I added only links to the climbs and photos)

(1) Whore House Hoses (WI 4/5)*** Walking up through a slot canyon you will reach a 10ft ice shelf (may be covered with avalanche debris), walk up and over the ice shelf reaching the base of the route. (with a 70m rope you can belay out of range of debris but with a 60m rope you will be right at the base of route) The first pitch is WI5 on the right and WI4/5 (depending on how early in the season it is) and is deceptively long (in excess of 200ft/60m ~65m long). After completing the long vertical section on the first pitch (~42m) there is a section of lower angle ice. Use caution here since the ice CAN be thin and hollow (it was approximately 1" thick when I did it and below it is running water) The top of the first pitch reaches a bolt belay station. From here, continue up left in the slot to the 2/3 pitches (WI4/5) which can be taken as one pitch with a long rope. Rappel the route.

(2) Bad Ass Pencil WI 5/6 - depending on its conditions, this strenuous pillar of poor ice can be either thick and protected or thin and scary. It is located just above the road, nice view from the parking area. 15 min approach. 

(3) First Gully (WI3) - probably the easiest climb in the area, rolling ice with short sections of WI 3, bolted anchor stations, about 5 pitches long. Good beginner ice leader climb.

(4) Second Gully (WI 3/4)** A series of steps with the first and last one being the longest (the first step can be done as WI 4, or more like WI 3 by zigzagging up and avoiding the steeper ice) with a series of smaller steps in between the two (WI2+) connected by either snow covered ice (most probably) or ice steps. The descent is to the right at mid route, below the final flow. From the top of the route traverse left to either rap into the gully from a tree with slings, descend to the walk-off ridge or descend through the trees to a slab- descend left towards the gully to the descent ridge. I found rappelling the route easier than the descend. There are fixed anchors.

(5) Goldrush (WI4/5 mixed 600ft) - Is very seasonal dependent. In a good season can be thunker ice all the way to the top that can be taken in 3 long pitches. In other seasons the first pitch can be completely devoid or partially devoid of ice for the first 100 ft and involve dry tooling/rockclimbing. Second pitch just below the second belay/rappel station can be devoid of ice or it can be thin. Take screws, cams, nuts and thin pitons. Route is descended by rappelling or if there is another party on the route, continue up the final slabs for about 500ft. Traverse left staying pretty high until you reach the Second Gully, gully drop down into the trees on the left side of the gully and travese to the descent on the right side. Drop down and traverse back to your packs. Again, there are new rappel anchors fixed along the route, and it is easier to rappel down. 

(6) Stairway to Heaven (WI4:800ft) *** - one of the most popular climbs in the area. The climb is nicely seen from the parking area and from your approach. It is usually done in 5 pitches with the first and 4rd pitches being more difficult WI4, and pitch 2 and 4 easier pitches. Descent by rappel, or walk off to the north of the climb. 

(7) Highway to Hell WI4, 800feet - great climb with a longer approach just past Stairway to Heaven. Expect about 5 pitches of climbing with the first pitches starting easy. Descend by rappel. 

Images of Ice Climbs in Eureka

Second Gully and Goldrush

Second Gully WI3 and Goldrush WI4, Eureka Colorado. 
Stairway to Heaven
 Stairway to Heaven  WI4
Whorehouse Hoses WI5
Whorehouse Hoses WI4/5
First Gully WI3
First Gully WI3
Across the valley
View of "Stairway to Heaven" and "Highway to Hell" 
Bad Ass Pencil WI5/6
Bad Ass Pencil WI5
Highway to Hell WI4
Highway to Hell WI4+ 
Hoser's Highway WI5
Hoser's Highway WI5

Cross Country Skiing

Nordic skiing
Nordic skiing
Nordic Trail
Nordic Trail

There is a nice nordic ski trail along the Animas River from Silverton to Eureka. 
The length is 8 miles one way. It is good both skate skiing and classical skiing. 
Access is for free, and it is pet friendly. 

SP album with some images -click here.

Rock Climbing in the summer

Eureka is more known for its ice climbing, but there are several good rock routes as well. The area is a bit more busy in the summer with tourists visiting the old mining town and ghost towns, and very popular with 4-wheelers and part of the scenic alpine loop
The rock climbing is located right at Eureka - you can use the same parking lot as for ice climbing or drive directly below the rock climbs since the road is open during the summer. The climbs are accessible by 2WD vehicle. Most of the climbs in this area are bolted (some require a little bit of gear), but due to the nature of the rock, high altitude and its location, consider it more of an alpine climb rather than a sport climb. 
Link to Mountain Project Description of the area.

Climber on Five Card Draw
Climber on Five Card Draw

View from the top of 2nd pitch
View from the top of 2nd pitch

Silver Stage, 1st pitch
Silver Stage, 1st pitch

External Links

Eureka, Colorado

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