ice climbing newcomer

Info on gear, conditioning, and preparation for hiking/climbing.
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ice climbing newcomer

Postby NE_Dad » Wed Dec 26, 2007 10:35 am

I just found out there is an ice climbing expo in my neck of the woods (Nebraska). You can link to it through rock and ice magazine's website. Niobrara Ice Jam. May we discuss first ice climbing experiences? What not to do, what basic equipment I might buy besides a helmet, rope and axes. How about a good book? I am told there will be others with experience very willing to teach. Anyone interested in coming to this event PM me.

"The ability to witness two men stand toe to toe in the spirit of sportsmanship and pummel each other into insensibility is what separates us from the animals." Reverend Jim Ignatowski.
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Re: ice climbing newcomer

Postby Yikes » Wed Dec 26, 2007 10:43 am

You probably want to ice climb on toprope a bunch of times before trying to lead climb. It is fairly strenuous to place protection (ice screws) and you want to be fairly comfortable before you try that in a dangerous position. If you are climbing in the wild (not an ice park), you should obtain knowledge of how to get off the route (are there rap rings, trees with slings, walk-off, etc).

Make sure you bring lots of extra clothes for belaying; it gets mighty cold (unless the sun is on you). You will also want eye protection (sunglasses, etc) because a LOT of ice is going to be coming down. A thermos of hot choc or coffee is a good idea.

You are also going to need to buy or rent waterfall ice crampons. Some people like the single front pick (mine has 2).

If you are setting up a toprope, make sure you are tied in. You don't want to fall off the top of the waterfall.
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Re: ice climbing newcomer

Postby La Mula » Wed Dec 26, 2007 11:08 am

for equip, you can't go wrong with Black Diamond, Petzl, or Grivel. This equipment is so specialized now, there is really nothing basic about it anymore as far as tools, pons, & protection. The equipment basically lets you climb the ice almost just like going free rock climbing.

My first ice experiences in CO were great because of the people that I learned from.


-- Climb naturally & enjoy

-- Toprope/second only to start out with - get a ton of mileage. Leading ice is the real deal with your life & limb on the line.
-- If leading, falling is not an option (unless you are looking at expert grade overhanging climbs). If TR'ing, don't worry about falling & just climb it.
-- Don't belay or put your belayer directly under the fall line; if belaying away from the base of a climb, consider anchoring.

-- It's all in the sticks. Good placements make your climb better.
-- To get good sticks, get your feet in a good body balance position so you can get leverage in your swing or placement.
-- Don't overgrip your tools & shake out when you can to save your hands. Let your tools & wrist snap do the work on the swing.
-- Look at placing & hooking your tools; you will save energy, instead of just swinging for the sake of swinging.
-- Get straight arm on your upper tool as soon as you can when making upward progression.

-- If you dinner plate a good-sized piece of ice when you swing, let everyone know. Break it apart if you can. Also, let the ice hit your helmet; not your face, chest, nor legs (ouch! - just look straight ahead and let the helmet take the blow)
-- Use a helmet when climbing ice.
-- Learn to use your abdominal & other core muscles (hang straight arm on a pull-up bar and bring your legs up)
-- Don't climb underneath someone. (don't walk underneath someone climbing, either)
-- For feet, work on heel down postions & side stems to engage your crampons better.

-- If you are getting worked over; that's normal, climbing ice is not easy & it's always steeper than it looks from the ground.
-- As you run laps on TR; learn how your body manages energy the best for a given route. Enjoy the ice, but learn to improve.
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Re: ice climbing newcomer

Postby Yog » Wed Dec 26, 2007 1:01 pm

Great info posted from Yikes & La Mula.

You might contact Yucca Dune (Jam website says events are being put on by Yucca) and find out if they are having instructional clinics, what vendors will be there, etc. Many times, events like this will have reps from Petzl, Black Diamond, etc where you can demo equipment before you buy. I demoed different ice tools for a full season my first year before buying Charlet-Moser Quarks, which felt best for me...although my wallet disagreed with that decision :shock:

Only other newbie info I would provide is to really work on your footwork. If you have great sticks with your ice tools but your feet are shaky, unstable, and not firmly planted in the ice, then you will be relying on your arms to "pull yourself up" on the ice. This will result in your arms burning out way too quickly and the fun factor will diminish quickly into pain factor, making it very difficult to even hold your ice tools, much less swing more and pull yourself up any higher. Good footwork in conjunction with solid pick placements will result in a much better experience altogether.

You also might consider picking up "How to Ice Climb" by Craig Luebben. A top notch, very detailed and informative book by a world class climber that covers everything from equipment to beginning-advanced climbing techniques.

Good luck and enjoy! I didn't know they had ice climbing in Nebraska! :D Please take pics and post them (or pm) for us!!!
. . .Now, after the hours of torment . . . I have nothing more to do than breathe . . .I am nothing more than a single, narrow, gasping lung, floating over the mists and the summits.
-Reinhold Messner
La Mula
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Re: ice climbing newcomer

Postby La Mula » Wed Dec 26, 2007 1:22 pm

One more thing:

Feet to poo & sticks to screw.

Means look at your feet when you want to place them (hips out from the ice) & suck your hips to the ice to get better tool placements (hips into the ice).
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Re: ice climbing newcomer

Postby d_baker » Wed Dec 26, 2007 2:09 pm

Book suggestions.
"Ice & Mixed Climbing: Modern Technique" by Will Gadd
"Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills" published by The Mountaineers (if you don't have this already).

Starting out, before you spend a lot of money (which is easy to do in this sport), borrow or rent gear if you can.
Also, climb with others (that you can trust & rely on) that have been at it for a while. Watch them climb and learn their movements. And ask questions.
Then ask them to critique your technique and be open to their suggestions.

If you can do so safely, stand at the base of an ice climb and practice your footwork. Kick in, take a couple of steps up and down to become comfortable with your crampons and your placements. Don't forget to look down at where you will kick. Use holes and pockets in the ice to your advantage.
Beginners tend to overkick and generally don't trust their feet. The quicker you trust your feet, the better off you will be.
Then work your swing technique.

As others have already mentioned here; TR, TR, and TR. Laps, laps, and more laps.

Have fun!!

If this "Ice Jam" is offering clinics, take one.

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