Ice Climbing in the North Fork: Ice Cragging at its Finest
The North Fork of the Shoshone River Valley near Cody Wyoming is a great ice climbing destination if you’re looking for high quality yet accessible single pitch climbs in a beautiful setting. The North Fork is home to several aesthetic single pitch ice climbs of both moderate and difficult grades including some awesome hard pillars. Access in the area involves less arduous approaches than many of the surrounding areas near Cody, making it a great cragging option if you want a break from longer climbs in the South Fork. In addition, the breccia spires, natural arches, and wind-swept valleys of the North Fork make this an incredibly unique landscape to explore.
As special use permittees operating in a wilderness area, it is also our responsibility to provide a model for sustainable use of this pristine natural resource. We integrate Leave No Trace (LNT) in addition to Beyond Leave No Trace best practices into our guiding curriculum. In particular, we stress the application of LNT principles in ice climbing-specific and place-based contexts. For example, we:
- Provide a detailed model for trip and contingency planning (LNT Principle 1),
- Avoid trampling vegetation and hike on frozen/snowy terrain as much as possible to minimize erosion (Principle 2),
- Provide WAG bags and teaching climbers how to descend ice climbs safely without leaving any anchor material (Principle 3),
- Discourage climbers from taking anything they find such as artifacts or animal remains (Principle 4),
- Remind climbers to bring their own firewood if they choose to camp in established campgrounds and making sure they do not create any fires in wilderness (Principle 5),
- Stay clear of Bighorn sheep herds so as to not put them under stress (Principle 6),
- Avoid crowding popular routes (Principle 7).
We consider sustainability strategies such as these as part of our responsibility as a business operating on public land and part of our mission of teaching about the ethics of low-impact climbing.
The North Fork at a glance:
Single pitch ice climbing
Intro – Advanced
December through March
Weekend – weeklong
Winter car camping, lodges, and hotels
Classic ice climbing routes in the South Fork:
- Snubnose (WI3+) – This short but sweet pillar is an excellent introduction to steep ice climbing! Nestled in an alcove at the foot of Sleeping Giant Mountain, this is best combined with other classic climbs in the upper Gunbarrel Creek drainage.
- The Wire (WI4+) – One of the few multipitch ice climbs in the area, The Wire will test your thin ice climbing skills as you navigate its tricky last pitch. The climb consists of several smaller but fun pitches of lower angle ice to access an upper bowl where the money pitch overlooks the flanks of Sleeping Giant Mountain. There is some significant avalanche hazard on this approach so it is best to be avoided in deep snow.
- Ricochet (WI5) – Ricochet is one of the best steep smears in the Cody region. Although it only forms in prolonged cold and cloudy weather, when it does form this is a must-do ice climb if you’re in the area. The first half of the climb is pleasant slightly less than vertical climbing, then the angle steepens significantly as the ice becomes very thin toward the top. This climb requires a great deal of endurance and should only be attempted in good condition – too high of temperatures or sun exposure make it very unsafe. There is a good tree 5m above the climb for an anchor.
- Finger on the Trigger (WI5) – Finger on the Trigger is one of the best and most accessible steep pillars in the North Fork if not the greater Cody area. A mild approach leads to a beautiful amphitheater with several pillars and curtains coalescing to form this awesome climb. Take your pick of pillar or curtain, encounter wildly featured and steep climbing to a crux move of pulling onto the upper curtain, and then sustained WI4 to a tree anchor up top. This climb is not to be missed when in good condition!
Programs available in the North Fork:
Resources for planning your ice climbing trip to the North Fork:
- 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
- Conditions report: Coldfear.com
- 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 climbing with us in the North Fork? Send us an email with your name, email address, and brief description of what you’re looking for.