She offers physical challenges for anyone willing to seek them — but she saves her most daredevil opportunities for the dead of winter. That’s when, if everything goes perfectly, she offers up the ultimate challenge: Ice climbing.

When her falls freeze over, when water flows off huge hunks of rocks into giant icicles — that’s when in-the-know locals head to the Snake River Canyon and City of Rocks, scout ice flows, and start climbing.

Conditions have to be perfect for ice climbing: It takes a continuous flow of water, and temperatures must be well below freezing for 10-15 days. Not all winters are ice climbing winters, but when they happen they’re a real treat.

The ice climbing routes range from those that are good for moderate to technical tests best attempted by experienced adventurers. Here’s where to find them.

Snake River Canyon

The canyon around Twin Falls has four well-established climbing crags.

Perrine Coulee In the summer, Perrine Coulee is a 200-foot waterfall. In the winter, it becomes an overhang of huge icicle pillars and rocks that present very technical climbing challenges (in other words: not for beginners). Perrine Coulee has one climbing route and is rated WI6M9.

Shoshone West Located across from Shoshone Falls, these five established routes range from WI3 to WI5. Climbs range from one to two pitches.

The Mother Lode This climbing hub near Auger Falls is easily accessible from the nearby hiking/biking trail. (Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to see if climbing conditions are right without hiking with your gear.) With seven established routes and multiple anchors, you’ll find plenty of challenging climbing options. The Mother Lode is ranked from WI3 (moderate) to WI5 (technical) and even houses a mixed line.

The Warm-Up Wall This area is located off the Mogensen Trail under the Perrine Bridge. Its location stays cold and sheltered from the sun, and there are established anchors at the top that give climbers access to WI2 (easy) and WI4 (moderate) routes. There are five lines with opportunities for more.

City of Rocks

Ice climbers discovered the joys of City of Rocks National Reserve back in the 1990s, when then-climbing ranger Brad Schilling scaled Scot’s Blessing. There aren’t any waterfalls at the City; instead, water flows off the smooth granite faces of the rocks. It freezes at night, creating ice that eventually becomes climbable.

You need a permit to fix an anchor, but other than that you’re free to explore City of Rocks by snowshoe. There are multiple ice climbing opportunities in the City, but here are two of the most popular.

Scot’s Blessing The route that started it all. Keck says that Scot’s Blessing is a good barometer for climbing in the rest of the park; if ice is connecting to the ground there, chances are other climbing opportunities are available. Scot’s Blessing is visible from the park’s main road. Follow the Creek Side Towers trail for several hundred yards, then turn down at the “South Fork Circle Creek/Creekside Towers” sign. Descend to the bottom of the drainage, cross the South Fork Creek, and follow the trail upstream. A couple hundred yards past the foot bridge, start keeping an eye on the hillside on the east side of the drainage for ice.

Bath Rock Bath Rock is popular among climbers in the summer, and the opportunities continue in the winter. Take the Cowboy Route on the east side of Bath Rock during the winter; you’ll find mixed climbing.

For an in-depth look at ice climbing at City of Rocks, check out Schilling’s “Ice Climbing Guide to City of Rocks.” Note: Schilling is listed as the climbing contact at City of Rocks, but he is enjoying a well-earned retirement. For further information, call the Visitor’s Center at ((208) 824-5901.

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