Town Preparing to Expand Ice Climbs Park

Operating under the premise “in times of heat, prepare for cold,” Lake City Recreation Director Ben Hake and his assistant, Ethan Wuest are plunging ahead as they prepare for a significant expansion at Lake City Ice Park near the mouth of Henson Creek Canyon.
The present ice park, located on cliffs just up from Pumphouse Park and below the town’s water tank, is transformed into a shimmering, 100’-tall ice curtain each winter utilizing overflow water from the water tank.
The existing ice wall is compact and offers perhaps 13 to 15 individual climbing routes as agile winter climbers stretch their climbing ropes from the top of the cliff, descending to near the frozen surface of Henson Creek.
Town of Lake City has received approval from the land’s owners, Bureau of Land Management, for a significant expansion of the ice climbing park which now expands into a separate area across from the old beer gardens a half mile up Henson Creek.
Recreation Director Hake reports that the BLM has given the go ahead for a separate ice climbing wall which is 800’ in length and roughly 100’ height in the beer garden area and directly across from the public walking path.
The beer garden area recalls the early 1880s park with arbors, dancing pavilion and shady benches which were created by Ferdinand Hilgenhaus, a German immigrant who owned a popular Lake City saloon. The beer garden improvements were wildly popular after 1880 but were short-lived when much of the area washed away in the first high spring runoff.
Hake and Wuest have been busy in recent days hand-rolling spools of 2”-diameter plastic tubing which will constitute the water distribution system at the top of the cliff to form the ice.
It’s been an uphill and downhill route for Hake and Wuest as they roll the plastic tubing spools on cliff-side terraces adjacent to the popular “Teepee” walking trail which extends along the eastern Henson Creek cliffs up from the water tower.
In addition to 800’ of main line tubing, Hake says there will also be four offshoot feeder lines 3/4”-circumference to aid in the ice-making process at the new location..
Water to form the ice wall at the new location will be pumped from Henson Creek — no more than 35 gallons per minute — using up to three pumps.
The water pumps are yet to be acquired by the town, he says, and cost about $1,200 per pump. “We’re looking for sponsors to purchase the pumps,” says Hake, “and are hoping the whole operation will be up and running late this fall in time for added ice climbing opportunities next winter.”
While the existing ice wall offers 13-15 climbing routes, the new 800’-long ice wall will offer up to 38 new locations for rope ascents and descents.
Town of Lake City’s existing Ice Climbs Park is consistently packed with avid ice climbers, including students from Western State University in Gunnison, throughout the winter.
Studies have indicated that the ice climbing devotees provide an important economic boost in the Lake City area during the winter months, filling local hotels and supplying patrons to area eateries.
Expansion of the ice climbing opportunities, as is now underway by the town’s recreation department, is envisioned as a further boost to the town’s winter economy.