Swing, check. Swing, check. Kick, kick. Stand. Repeat.
Ice climbing is a dish best served freezing cold. While many Ontario climbers are heading south to warmer climes to pull on rock, or huddling under artificial light getting their fix on urethane, some brave souls with spikes on their feet and carrying axes venture out into the tundra in search of monsters.
Eastern North America is home to some seriously world-class ice. What we lack in sheer size compared to destinations like the Canadian Rockies, we make up for volume and access. In the United States, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont offer hundreds of outstanding climbs at various difficulties all within 20 minutes of your roadside parking spot. Quebec’s Gaspé has some of the highest quality ice on the Continent in outstanding volumes; the town of Mont-Saint-Pierre has 50 world-class routes within 20 minutes of the town among beautiful seaside hills. In Ontario, Thunder Bay offers very high-quality difficult ice in droves. Further south, the area north of Peterborough up to the Quebec border is full of single-pitch climbs; Canadian Shield rock is very leaky.
So how do you take advantage of all the East has to offer this winter? There are a few options:
- Friends that ice climb and own their own gear!
- Note: this is the riskiest and most dangerous option
- make sure you trust this person 100%, especially if your anchors need to be made in ice. make sure that they are able to evaluate ice quality properly and that they know how to set up an abalakov anchor.
- in this case you can rent all the gear you’d need from a store like Mountain Equipment Co-op, and it shouldn’t break the bank (information can be found on the MEC website under “Services”).
- Take an introductory course!
- There are many companies in Southern Ontario that run introductory ice climbing courses throughout the winter. One such company is One Axe Pursuits, based out of Guelph!
- The instructors are extremely knowledgeable and have extensive experience, this is a very worthwhile course if you’re serious about trying ice climbing out.
If you’re ready to plunge your own axe and are serious about getting into this most awesome of winter pursuits, the most important piece of gear you can buy is a pair of boots. You can borrow axes, you can borrow crampons, you can borrow a helmet...but your day is immediately ruined if your boots don’t fit and you find it uncomfortable, cold, and difficult to climb. Try on as many different options as you can, because just like climbing shoes, technical mountaineering boots fit differently depending on the company. Look at boots with both a heel and toe welt, this allows you to use any type of crampon. Boots are an investment piece, and if you take care of them they should last you many years.
So, don’t let the cold weather get you down! Look at it as an opportunity for adventure and maybe we’ll see you out on the ice this year.
Get excited because the water is freezing! It's time to kick some ice!