Ice climbing. The colder, edgier side of outdoor climbing. Find out what it’s all about and go on a trip with Alpine Endeavors.
When the weather is below freezing temperatures, there’s only one way to climb outside: ice climbing. Alpine Endeavors has a full-day ice climbing trip planned, with reserved spots for Brooklyn Boulders climbers on January 25th.
Curious about ice climbing? We chat with long-time ice climber & BKB Team Member to get the run-down.
Describe ice climbing in one sentence. It makes you feel alive, in a way nothing else does.
What’s the difference between ice climbing and rock climbing?
One of the big misconceptions is that ice climbing and rock climbing are incredibly similar, when really the two sports share only their name, the rope, and the harness. Rock climbers are handed a set problem and forced to work within the constraints of the rock. Through strength and balance an ice climber can manipulate the climb they are on to fit themselves. In rock climbing a route or a problem usually remains the same day-to-day, year-to-year. In ice climbing the nature of a climb can change from morning to afternoon. Easy climbs can become challenging, and difficult climbs simple with the a change in pressure and ambient temperature. You could spend an entire season climbing a single route in different conditions and never have the same experience twice.
In rock climbing there is a direct connection to the rock. Ice climbers experience the ice through the interface of their tools and crampons. At any given time an ice climber is really only connected to the ice by a few square millimeters of steel. Some see this interface as a burden compared with the direct nature of a hand on rock, but for me, my equipment is part of me. For an ice climber, climbing without their tools is like asking a painter to give up their brushes. With these pieces of metal I am able to climb something I could barely hold with my bare hands or feet. I can make hand holds or foot holds appear. I can make the body position I prefer fit the climb, instead of the climb dictating it to me. When I transition from rock to ice I feel that ice climbing is more thuggish and more genteel than rock climbing, more aggressive and less combative than rock climbing, more beautiful and more base.
How does one prepare for ice climbing? Come into ice climbing with a positive, warm attitude. Being cold can ruin any experience, and when you ice climb you often get cold. But you always warm back up. Swing your hands, wear layers, and bring an open mind to the climb. Regardless of your experience level it will be something different and unexpected.
What advice do you have for a first time ice climber?
Bring two pairs of gloves. Put one pair under your base-layers next to your skin, so whenever your hands start to get cold you can put on a toasty pair of gloves.
Don’t over grip the ice axes. Ice climbers call this the “DeathGrip” where you squeeze your axes much harder than you actually need to. This will make your arms tired faster, and your hands colder as you squeeze out circulation. But you will do this. We all do this. We just try not to do it so much.
Remember that you can’t smear. Your feet only have points on the front and bottom. Always keep your toes pointed into the ice.
Point your toes up when you kick. It will make your crampons stick in better.
Have fun and take pictures!
Alpine Endeavors will provide all the technical equipment needed – helmet, harness, boots, crampons, ice tools, rope, etc.. You’ll need to bring personal gear (gloves, winter pants, winter jacket(s), hat, long underwear, wool sox) and lunch. Limited spots available!
Ready to get rough?
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