Showing posts from December, 2010

"... and keep your heels down!"

A lot of factors contribute to competent ice climbing, such as technique, endurance and boldness. None of these comes easily, at least not to me. But something else that's key to efficient ice climbing is having one's systems dialed - and that's a bit easier to come by. Over the years I've developed my own set of habits that serve me well when venturing out into the cold. They are all rather self-evident, but maybe you will find one or two of them useful. In no particular order: For a full ice-climbing day I typically bring three pairs of gloves: thin ones for approaching, a favourite pair for climbing, and thick ones for belaying. That makes for two pairs on the climb. I clip the belay gloves to the back of my harness while climbing and change into them at belays, while the climbing gloves go deep inside my clothes to stay warm for the next pitch. Count on your approach gloves getting wet. If the approach is over an hour or so, I bring a spare pair of socks to change

Just ice climbing

I must be easily amused. I have been ice climbing for nearly twenty years, racking up forty or fifty days in an average season. Yet somehow, I am still not bored of it. What is it about climbing ice that holds my interest? After all, it is cold, repetitive, and let's face it, mostly easy. Take yesterday, for example. We climbed the Replicant for what was my seventh time. We got up early. We drove, biked and hiked for several hours just to get to the base of the route. We got screaming barfies and ice-cream headaches. Then we retraced our steps to go home. Why go to all that trouble just to climb two pitches? I suspect the day I require an answer to that question to get me out of bed at an uncivilized hour will be the day I stop ice climbing. But for now, I hope the photos below provide enough of an answer. The Trophy Wall on Mt. Rundle. How much more compelling can climbing lines get? Barry Blanchard and Steve Holeczi trying to avoid a windslab in the grey light of dawn, with t

Faux Alpinism

What is alpine climbing, exactly? At what point is one no longer just rock or ice climbing, but alpine climbing? For me, it comes down to a number of things. Any one of them does not make an outing alpine; rather, a few combine to push one over the threshold and into the alpine. In no particular order, here are some things that help make alpinism what it is: Slogging. Most alpine climbing, especially in the Rockies, requires some. Slogging up the east face of Mt. Alberta in the winter of 2005 . Photo: Scott Semple. Heavy packs. Sure, sometimes you get away with a daypack, but most alpine-climbing packs make you wish you'd never picked them up. Climbing with an overnight pack on the Dogleg Couloir on Mt. Chephren in the winter of 2008 . Photo: Pierre Darbellay. Summits. Not all alpine outings have to end on a summit, but they should at least pretend to try. This often involves slogging (see above) past the end of so-called difficulties. "Past the difficulties" on the D