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Topic: Learning to Climb Water Ice, with Petra Cliffs Mountaineering School< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
 Post Number: 1
vinovampire Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 14 2012, 9:26 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

After doing an amazingly fun winter ascent of Mt Washington with Spindle and WalksWithBlackFlies in January, I decided that I wanted to further develop my “mountaineering” skills and have a few guided class experiences. There seems to be a good variety of schools in Vermont and New Hampshire that offer general mountaineering and ice climbing classes.  I’ve been thinking about going “out west” for a trip sometime in the next few months, so I figured I could take a general mountaineering course at that time and would focus on ice climbing this winter. I’m NOT a climber, so I thought this would be a good way to learn some new skills and get outside of my comfort zone.

I decided to take two classes with Petra Cliffs Mountaineering School, which operates out of Burlington, Vermont. I took the Beginner Ice #1 course in February and Beginner Ice #2 in March. I considered taking the classes on back-to-back days, but decided against it in the end. On both days, we lucked out and had amazing weather, with blue sky and perfect temperatures. I definitely didn’t experience the cold and (possibly) miserable side of ice climbing.


Checking Out Some Water Ice at Smugglers Notch, Vermont

Beginner Ice #1 was a good introduction to ice climbing. Our guide, Tim Farr, is AMGA certified instructor and exceeded all my expectations. We hiked in to the Practice Wall at Smugglers Notch and after some clear and straightforward instruction we started climbing and belaying under Tim’s watchful eye. We had a great group of six. None of us had ever climbed ice and only one member of the group rock climbed regularly. Yet, we all picked up the concepts and ran with it right away. For the next several hours, until dusk just after 4pm, we climbed a variety of top-roped routes that Tim had setup, pretty much non-stop. I didn’t expect to get so many climbs in one day. I lost count after about a dozen climbs. We worked on foot technique and on several climbs just went with one axe.


My First Ice Climb on the Practice Wall at Smugglers Notch

At the end of the class, one of the guys in the group and I decided that we definitely wanted to come back for the second class. We discussed doing it the following day, but after about 6-hours of almost non-stop ice climbing, I thought I should take the next day off. That was a good idea. I’ve never been that exhausted in my life.


Driving Force at Smugglers Notch, Vermont

Several weeks later, we took Beginner Ice #2, again with Tim, but this time with a 2:1 ratio for the class. This time, instead of top roping, Tim lead the climbs and we followed him up, removing ice screws as well moved up the wall. Since it’s been so warm this season, it was a little tricky finding good ice, but Tim knows the Notch like the back of his hand and gave use a great tour of all of the different routes as we walked up the Notch Road. Again, we climbed well after the official end time of the class and Tim had use working safely of the ground placing ice screws and discussing angels and loads for another two hours, until we hiked out at dusk around 6pm.


Tim Supervising our First Rappel of the Day

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about these two courses. Tim is a natural teacher and a solid guide. He was always double and triple checking our work, but at the same time, he was very relaxed and calm. Although we were learning a ton, I felt like we were out with a buddy. I briefly met a few of the other guides at the climbing center, and they all seemed equally helpful.

Each class ended up costing about $175, which included all the technical gear and a class that ran from 9am to 4pm (and we ended later both times). It was "totally (expletive) worth it!" as one of my fellow classmates put it during the middle of the first day. I completely agree.

I'm not sure if I'll become an "ice climber" in the future. It's a tough, time-consuming, expensive, and potentially dangerous activity. My plan is to take a private, guided day next winter to work on developing the technique and see how that goes. I am sure that this experience will help me when I'm out hiking on steep, icy mountains next winter.

If anybody has any questions, please feel free to ask.
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rayestrella Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 25 2012, 6:53 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Very Cool Vino,

Even if you don't do it in the future it is nice to have the skill and knowledge for unexpected situations.


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Montanalonewolf Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 25 2012, 11:04 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

You might want to look into making a visit out here one winter where some serious ice-climbing events and competitions are held.

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vinovampire Search for posts by this member.
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 27 2012, 10:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

rayestrella - That's exactly what I was thinking, it's good to have some background with steep ice for when i do more general mountaineering. Also, I made some good connections with the other people in the class. I'm already planning a spring hike with one of the guys. New friends who love the outdoors is always a good thing!

Montanalonewolf - As a matter of fact, I'm planning a few trips out in that general direction for 2012. If I'm in your area, I may be PMing you and others with questions.  Watching people who really know how to ice climb is pretty impressive.

:)
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PostIcon Posted on: Mar. 28 2012, 9:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(vinovampire @ Mar. 27 2012, 10:43 pm)
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Montanalonewolf - As a matter of fact, I'm planning a few trips out in that general direction for 2012. If I'm in your area, I may be PMing you and others with questions.  Watching people who really know how to ice climb is pretty impressive.

Then look into visiting the ice park in Ouray, CO.

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EastieTrekker Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Apr. 02 2012, 2:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Vino,

Very cool.  And appreciate the review of that particular service.

Do they also offer more general, mountaineering technique classes?  I'm planning to take a couple next winter (although I would like to take a couple ice climbing classes at this level too), but have been focusing my search on outfits in NH versus VT because of the proximity from Boston.


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