WestCoast Intermountain grt_lake northeast
"Momentum is more important than finesse."
---Larry McMurty---

I get several queries each winter season on how to get started iceclimbing. It strikes me that I can kill many birds with one stone by writing an online answer to this question. My first response to anyone asking me how to start iceclimbing is “just go do it” which is quickly tempered by the reality that it ain’t a cheap sport. Acquiring the minimum amount of equipment can run into hundreds of dollars. The minimum equipment basically consists of ice-tools (at least one), a pair of boots, a pair of crampons, and a helmet. Which equipment to buy varies with whom you ask, and three ice-climbers will give you at least four opinions. Then there’s the need for warm and weather resistant clothing, climbing harness and gear and so on. The bill can quickly run over $1,000.

Before taking the financial plunge into iceclimbing –and to help figure out which equipment you’ll like, or not– it’s worth it to try and find an equipment demonstration near you. Iceclimbing festivals often feature equipment manufacturers with tools to borrow (check www.iceclimb.com/fiesta.html for a fairly complete list of ice-festivals). And some climbing shops will have equipment to rent. If you know people who already climb ice, ask them to take you out for a day. Clothing that’s used for other winter sports also works for climbing ice.

With regard to acquiring iceclimbing skills, I could try and describe all the variations of possible techniques. But there are plenty of decent books out there that are pretty good at doing the same. For example:
Ice, Tools and Technique, by Duane Raleigh, Primedia, Inc.
How to Ice Climb! by Craig Luebben, Falcon Publishing, Inc.
Climbing Ice, by Yvon Chouinard, Sierra Club Books.
Ice World, by Jeff Lowe, The Mountaineers Books. Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills, edited by Don Graydon, The Mountaineers Books.
Cold Climbs, compiled by Ken Wilson, Dave Alcock, and John Barry, Diadem Books Regardless of the amount of reading you finish, it’s gonna take some time on the ice to figure out the mechanics of it all. Futzing around on ice while top-roped is a great way to learn what works. Bouldering on ice is also useful, and features the reality of the consequences of iceclimbing (i.e. you’ll get hurt if you screw up).

Comments to Will McCarthy


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