Built in 2022, the Ouray via ferrata Upstream Route is the newest addition to the free community via ferrata park located in Ouray Colorado’s Ice Park. Starting from the same location as the original Downstream route, a 2B rated route that’s an incredibly fun beginner friendly course. This new route was designed to take the adventure up a notch. Rated at a 4.5 B, I can assure you it will not disappoint. With new features, sections with no rungs, awesome vert, and a bail out point that we witnessed multiple groups using. This one passes the level of adventure and jumps straight into being a true challenge for even those in above average shape. So let’s take a look at what you need to know before you hit the Ouray via ferrata Upstream Route!
Ouray Via Ferrata Upstream Route – Guide, Tips and Info
Ouray via ferrata Upstream Route Video
Quick Facts & Features
- Built in 2022
- Upstream Route Rating: 4.5 B
- Free to Do
- Must have required gear – see below
- Over 5,000ft of anchored cable
- Bail Out Point ⅓ of the Way Through
- Small beach about ⅔ in, great pace to stop and eat.
- Cable Bridge
- Vertical Latter
- Sections Where Rock is your Only Footing and Grips
- Lots of Exposure
- Advanced Level Course
Gear – Required and Recommended
- Rock Climbing Harness – Properly Fit / Snug
- Real Via Ferrata Screamer – No Homemade Lanyards
- Proper Footwear – Close toed shoes, climbing shoes etc.
Optional but Recommended Gear:
Ouray Via Ferrata Upstream Route Guide
Getting There and Parking
The Ouray Via Ferrata park is located in the city’s original Ice Park. Which during the winter is one of the more popular ice climbing locations in the country. But during the summer it is now two via ferrata courses. Note that you will see the large pipes used for creating the ice falls on both sides of the canyon while doing the course.
Currently there are two main parking locations. One right off of the U.S. Highway 550, the main road running through town, at the turn on county road 361 between the rescue barn and the upper bridge. Or second, at the large parking area located at the turn on hairpin turn on U.S. Highway 55. Just as you start climbing on the south side of town. In summer you will see lots of 4x4s parked at this lot on the main highway. It’s also the start of some popular off-road trails.
Getting to the Start of the Course
Once you park, you will continue to follow the dirt road across the bridge. This is the finish of the Downstream course. And if you look to the left off the bridge you should see the final ladder bridge of the beginner course. This is not where you will be finishing the upstream course.
Continue up the road following the yellow “via ferrata” signs. Which will eventually lead you to a left turn onto the Ice Park trail. And lead you to the start of the course. This will also be the trail you exit on.
Starting and the Beginning of the Upstream Course
The Upstream route starts down to the left. Where you will wait for the park ranger to do a gear safety check, make sure anyone in front of you has some room, and give you any course info you may need. Then they will send you off!
Your first step will be out onto a bridge to send you across the canyon. The catch, this bridge is a lot looser with more swing than the downstream route. You will know right away that this is going to be a whole different adventure. Once you make it across you will turn to the right and start up stream. Almost immediately hitting one of the highlights of the entire course. A wire ladder climbing straight up for max exposure. There is even a little twist as you go up, that allows for more of an exposed feel.
Once off the ladder, the lack of metal rungs for your feet and hands makes it clear you are going to be using the rock and cable for holding on. Just grip and lean back and use the cable to maneuver your way across. The ranger will even give you tips if you are having trouble, since you’re going to be doing this a lot. You’re still that close to the start they can talk to you. Talk about an adrenaline kick to get you started. But you still have a long way to go.
Getting into the Meat of the Course
After the initial pump, the upstream course starts to settle in. It’s more challenging and typically stays a bit higher up on the canyon wall than the downstream course. Providing a great mix of exposure as you make your way upstream. Enjoying the trees and mountains towering over you as you climb.
The first ⅓ of course is incredibly enjoyable but is only a warm up for what is about to come. And because of this, they have added an exit bridge ⅓ up the course. This is your last chance, so if you continue on you’re officially committed. I normally wouldn’t emphasize this so much, but we saw a few groups use this exit. This course is tough and requires more physical strength and endurance than most other courses designed for all levels. It’s designed to be a challenge and fun!
The Crux and Finishing it Out
If you’re not taking the bail out, you will continue “under the bridge” literally, and then get ready to start the fun. From here the real vert and exposure of the course is on full display. The first climb is steep and sometimes feels almost slightly inverted. And it’s long, meaning you will need a lot of grip strength since you still have a long way to go.
As you make your way up and down, the course does its best to throw you off by mixing the grip and footing between rock and iron. And the designs have positioned the rungs they have supplied in some very peculiar spots. Forcing you bend and contort to find the right position to make some of the moves. So even when there are foot and hand holds, you are being challenged.
At about the ⅔ mark you will pass by a little beach where you can unclip and enjoy a nice break. But then it’s right back to it. But at this point most of the hard work is behind, with only a few tough pushes, and a fun little ending left. You will know you are getting to the end of the upstream route once you make the bend in the creak. And the route will work you down to the narrowest part. For a fun jump across, and one last vertical climb out. Ending with a short walk down the Ice Park trail back to the start and the road.
If you watch the video above, I’ve done my best to capture as many of the highlights as I could. Sadly I couldn’t film all of them, since I was holding on for dear life. This one is a true challenge and one that you need to go into understanding your limits. Less having to do with the highest, and more to do with the grip strength and endurance to complete the entire course. I believe it took us 3 hours moving at an ok pace. And our forearms were pumped. I found myself using my rest carabiner more than I thought I would on this one.
In short, I love the Ouray Upstream route! It’s a challenge, and between the beginner route and this one. Making for the perfect weekend trip to the area for some time in the canyon. You can even fit in the incredible Telluride Via Ferrata while you are there too! And the best part of it all is that the city has built and maintains the course as a non-profit, and it’s free to go as many times as you want. We really do need more places like this in the country, and Ouray will always stand out in my heart because of the beauty and outdoor lifestyle it represents.