Photo: Tim Banfield
By Erik Wellborn
As someone who has climbed for almost 30 years I find the evolution of climbing frozen waterfalls fascinating. From a refuge of loners, misfits, introverts, armed with pound in snargs, footfangs, and clunky plastic boots, the sport has morphed into a fairly mainstream activity. The modern climber can now access fruit boots, turbos, lasers, rehearsed sport tooling, blogs, crowds, and tweets by Justin Timberlake.
About a year ago, I had a series of negative experiences that to me exemplified the uglier characteristics of the current ice/mixed climbing scene. An obsession with grades and the collecting of routes overshadowed the adventure and simple joy of climbing itself and being in the mountains. Of course, this dichotomy is as old as climbing itself but I couldn't help but feel that the increase in climbers and social media had amplified the issue.
For the first time in my life, I wanted nothing further to do with climbing. I spent the following months in a general moodiness and agitation, preferring to focus on hiking, tenkara, and work. I may not have been happy in the world of modern climbing, but I was miserable without it. I needed to find a balance. And I did..
A recent trip to Hyalite this season with an old friend rejuvenated my soul. No crowds, no attitude, pristine ice, low key conversations with humble climbers, and the solitude of the mountains. It has become crystal clear to me what I need from climbing and what I choose to avoid.
In the end, everyone finds what they need on the ice. Whether its crushing the current grades, or something more quiet and personal.
Early season ice posing potential issues somewhere in Wyoming.
by Dustin Fric
Chasing down frozen waterfalls in any winter month can be as simple as driving to a local crag or can get as creative as you want to make it. Early season ice climbing is almost always creative. Plucking off gems and finding new waterfalls is right outside most people's doorstep with a little creativity, perseverance and practice.
Climbing ice in November always poses issues and provides benefits, just like everything else in life. One thing that makes November so magical is watching the ice come in. Seeing these frozen giants grow, morph and transform into sometimes completely different waterfalls throughout every year. November is like watching a birth if you will, the birth of a new season full of growth and potential.
For some of us waiting through late summer and October can be as depressing as a six month sentence in San Quentin. Then comes November; the time that snow falls in the high country and ground temps drop enough to enjoy frozen mediums. From mud to moss and water it all starts to freeze. This is when it “snaps” which means game time for a large group of frozen waterfall connoisseurs from all over the world. These are the ones who wake up with clammy palms and a glimmer in their eye ready to walk, ski, ford rivers, and freeze it out just to get a taste of what their life has been missing.
Ice Climbing…Let's all go get some!