Intro to Ice Climbing

 By: JB Mills
For those of you who just can't get enough of the rush of outdoor extreme sports, ice climbing is something that you may want to look into. It is among the most adventurous and physically taxing of the many extreme sports. If you have any experience with rock climbing, you will be at ease a little bit ahead of the game when it comes to getting started with ice climbing. The same basic principles apply, though the equipment is a little different.

Most ice climbing sessions are planned out long in advance, and taken as a day-long tour. There are many different possibilities for climbing surfaces - basically, anything frozen and non-horizontal is fair game. Some of the most popular include frozen waterfalls, rock surfaces with frozen water flow, or even icebergs. Some of these are very dangerous, and should only be attempted by the most experienced of ice climbers or professionals.

Ice climbing is a little less accessible due to the fact that most of you won't be able to simply walk outside and find a giant wall of ice to climb. If you are going somewhere up North on vacation, you will definitely find a local ice climbing spot. Usually there are several well-known spots. If you have never climbed ice before, you should be with a guide or an expert as well as your friends.

Most rock climbing takes place in the mountains, since they provide the two necessary components: coldness and steepness. The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the most popular ice climbing areas, with difficulties ranging from beginner to expert. That area is your best bet in the USA, but ice climbing can be done in the Himalayas, the Alps and other mountain ranges all over the world, from Scotland to Nepal.

Safety equipment may seem like a drag, but it is necessary and can be the much needed life savior. Modern ice climbing equipment has been tweaked to the point where it is almost completely unnoticeable while you are climbing. This helps add to the illusion of danger, which is what makes the sport such a rush.

Depending on the surface, you may or may not use tools such as axes and picks. If you are new to the sport, you can start by simply climbing the ice as though it was a rock. Using gloves and stiff boots, you can search around for strategic hand or foot-holds. You will have to strategically plan your ascent so that you don't get stuck hanging from a handhold or you get stuck in a place from where you can't go up or come down.

Once you graduate to vertical climbs, your climb will take much longer. You will have to use your ice pick and axe to pull yourself up. You can bury your pick just a half of an inch into the ice, and that will provide enough strength for you to pull yourself up. You will also have to wear a special kind of footwear known as "crampons", which adds spikes to your boots. A swift kick into the ice wall, and you have a custom-made foothold.

Ice climbing can be a long and grueling experience. It requires plenty of physical exertion as you pull your body weight all the way up the side of the ice or glacial cliff. But when you reach the top, nothing can compare to the sense of joy at your accomplishment. So if you have the opportunity to go ice climbing in the future, don't be apprehensive. It may be difficult to get used to, and it may be cold, but it sure is amazing once you reach the top.
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