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Leave the skis. Pick up the axes.

Thaws, deep freezes, and little snow have made this an excellent winter for ice climbing. Here’s how to get started.
By Kenny Day

Rappelling down what we climbed up!

Rappelling down what we climbed up!

We’re deep into winter. There’s been more than one polar vortex and there’s been very little snowfall.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “this sounds like great ice climbing conditions.” You’re right. This winter has been stellar for ice climbing. We’ve had warm ups and then deep freezes, making the ice form in new ways more often.

Since this makes for bad ski conditions what else is one to do in the winter living in the North East? Ice climb in the Adirondacks of course.

It may sound crazy, risky, dangerous, reckless, scary or whatever other adjective you want throw in there to describe ice climbing but while it certainly can be those things, it’s generally a pretty safe and rewarding sport, not to mention extremely fun.

I’m fairly new to the sport myself and I’ve been addicted ever since the first time I kicked into the ice and placed my first pick. I can’t offer any technical or professional guidance but what I can do is guide you into the right direction to get started.

You’ll want to hire a guiding service. If this is your first time swinging ice tools then I’m going to say this is a requirement.

Guiding services vary in cost and vary in expertise. I’ve used several different climbing services around Keene, NY and Lake Placid. Hiring a guide is invaluable. They provide all of the necessary equipment (ice axes, crampons, helmet, harness, mountaineering boots, etc). They are also professionally trained to keep you safe and are very good at it. If it’s your first time they will teach you a variety of different skills: walking in crampons, swinging ice tools, how to efficiently move on ice, tieing knots, etc.

What you will need to bring are warm layers and a good attitude. Ice climbing is more mental than physical. It plays tricks with your mind. “I’m too high”, “I’m too tired”, “I’m too scared”, “I’m too ”. Your guide will pick up on your good attitude and empower you up the ice. Once you get to the top, the satisfaction by and large conquers any doubt you had climbing up.

It’s not necessary but I’d also recommend being in average shape. If you can do a few pull ups, you should be fine.

We’re a month into the new year. If “trying new things” was your goal for 2014, you can get an early start.

Go out. Do things.

Most guiding services offer group rates. This means you’ll climb with other folks who are at the same skill level. This is generally the cost effective approach but if you’re looking to get a 1 on 1 then expect to pay significantly more.

* Some recommended guiding services:
http://www.emsoutdoors.com/
http://www.cloudsplitterguides.com/

* Some guiding services may have an age requirement so it’s best to contact them directly.

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Roaring Brook Falls

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