Carter Mountain: The best of early season ice climbing
Carter Mountain southwest of Cody Wyoming is consistently one of the earliest ice climbing areas to set up in the western US. The area is readily accessible from the Carter Mountain Access Road in low snow conditions and the best climbing conditions tend to be mid October-early December. The approach hikes to many of the climbs are relatively moderate for Cody standards and the views of the eastern Absaroka range are unbeatable. There are several climbs of moderate difficulty (such as Fool’s Rush and Beginner’s Luck) that are well suited for our intro to ice climbing courses as well as two multipitch climbs (Curtains and Reality Strikes) that are excellent venues for our multipitch ice climbing course.
Classic routes in Carter Mountain:
- Curtains (WI3 3 pitches) – Curtains is the most accessible and enjoyable moderate multipitch ice climb on Carter Mountain, providing three nice pitches of steep and engaging WI3. Park just beyond the meadows area on the Carter Mountain Access Road where the first pitch of the climb comes into view. A 15-20 minute approach on flat ground brings you to a short rock step beneath the stellar first pitch. The following two pitches are shorter but still worth the slog. Belay and rappel from bolted anchors.
- Reality Strikes (WI3 5.5 500m) – Reality Strikes is an enjoyable early season alpine climb in a beautiful high desert setting that takes you to the top of Carter Mountain. The bottom half of the route features several fun steps of moderate ice interspersed with easier terrain winding through a beautiful slot canyon. Once past the third and longest pitch of ice, climb up several short steps of moderate mixed moves on loose rock to reach the snow slopes that lead to the east summit of Carter Mountain.
- Cold War (WI3 35m) and Skirmish (WI4 40m) – This pair of spring-fed flows offers one of the earliest and most dependable ice climbing objectives on Carter Mountain. The approach is long and steep but well worth it to climb these reliably fat flows. Both climbs can be easily accessed from above making them some of the more top-rope friendly ice in the area.
- The Wig (WI5 35m) – The Wig is the best pitch of steep ice on Carter Mountain and one of the first hard climbs to form every year! The approach is straightforward and the climbing is typically engaging as the Wig is very wind-affected and tends to form interesting ice features. The positioning of this climb is simply spectacular, perched high on a cliff overlooking the entire northern Absaroka Mountain region.
Programs available in Carter Mountain:
Resources for planning your ice climbing trip to Carter Mountain:
- Guidebook: Aaron Mulkey’s digital guide
- Gear shop and meeting location: For all of our ice climbing courses in Cody, we prefer to meet the night before the course for equipment rentals and safety orientation at Sunlight Sports in Cody WY.
- Forecast: Climbing Weather Forecast for the South Fork
- Conditions report: Coldfear.com
- Accommodations: For our guests ice climbing in the Cody area we have blocked out dates for staying at the historic Cody Carriage House on Airbnb. This is a beautiful, fully-furnished, private cottage with a full kitchen in a convenient location in downtown Cody. This booking is not included in the cost of the course fee.
- Food and drink: The Juniper Bar and Bistro, The Irma, Our Place, Beta Coffeehouse
- Rest day attractions: Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Heart Mountain Interpretive Center
Interested in ice climbing with us in Carter Mountain? Send us an email with your name, email address, and brief description of what you’re looking for.