“”Life is either a daring adventure or it’s nothing.””
Of all the people who have lived on the planet, the best ones are those who have known and lived their lives infused with adventure. It is the pursuit of adventure and adventure alone that can give you the thrill, the energy and can rejuvenate your spirits to get back to living life to the fullest in a never before manner because only when you have faced death and escaped it you can realize the importance of life. The true essence of life lies at the end of your comfort zone, and that begins with engaging yourself in activities, once in a while, that can help you experience its depth in all its forms. Not everyone has the guts to do things that involve playing with death so a salute to the ones who do and come out victorious. Ice climbing is one such activity that is known to be quite dangerous but at the same time supremely exhilarating.
It is an adventurous activity in which a person climbs on inclined ice mountains. It is a form of rock climbing the only difference being that the rock in case of ice climbing is present underneath the thick layers of ice. Ice climbers are immensely passionate about ice climbing because of the thrill of danger that comes while doing this activity. Out of all the adventure activities, it is also considered the most physically taxing and dangerous one because sometimes the ice climbers have to spend days with their faces turned towards the glaciers of ice and waterfalls that have frozen due to sub-zero temperatures. The worst thing that can happen with the climbers in such a condition is that their brain could freeze. The fear of falling into an icy chasm does not just increase the risk involved in ice climbing but also multiplies the thrill of the climber.
History of ice climbing:
Ice climbing came into existence in 1908, when a person named Oscar Eckenstein designed claws, known as crampons, which were toothed and could fit easily into the bottom of the boot of the climber. The work of these crampons was to give traction to the climber on a slippery surface. Before the invention of the crampons, climbers had to use more laborious and dangerous methods that involved the use of an axe to cut foothold into the ice so that they can gain a firm footing on it, also known as step cutting.
In 1930, advancement was made to crampons by Laurent Grivel, which allowed the climber to steer steeper ice. He modified the crampons using sharp fangs that hung in front of them.
In 1960, a person named Yvon Chouinard changed the whole design of axes used in ice climbing. Firstly, he shortened the size of the axe from 25 inches to 22 inches. Next he changed the shape of the traditional pick from straight to curved so that the axe could enter the ice much more easily than it did earlier. These improvements proved to be quite beneficial for the climbers as they solved the problems that would come up in removing the axe from the ice.
Tools used in ice climbing:
The most important companion for the climbers during their ice climbing trip are their climbing tools as without them there is no way they could do ice climbing and of course, everyone knows that. The catch is to know what exact tools you must have packed with you for the perfect trip.
- Axe: The climbers axe is the fundamental magic tool using which the enormous climb begins. To pull themselves up on the ice mountain the climber needs to swing their axe into the ice and then use it as a grip to pull the whole body up.
- Crampon: Another tool that is very important for an ice climber is a crampon. To gain traction on ice crampons are considered as the most important tool. There are two types of crampons, and both have their singular advantages. The first type is mono-point crampon, they have an advantage that they are extremely flexible and equally suitable for mixed climbing because they have a single point located on the front. The other type is a dual point crampon; they have an advantage that they provide a larger stability to climber as they have two points on the front.
- Ropes and Ice Screws: Ropes and ice screws are tools used for the purpose of protection. These tools protect the climber from falling. When the climber progresses in his climb, to save his/her life and prevent falling from the height, the climber places the ice screws in areas that are strategic and then clips in the rope.
- Helmet: The climber should wear a helmet before going on ice climbing as the helmet protects the climber’s eyes and head. The chances of survival when you fall from the height, in case your harness fails, are very low, and a helmet has considerably little to do with it. Although, it does act as a safety gear when you are climbing as it guards your head against the pieces of ice that might fall from above.
- Gaiters: It is important that you don’t overlook the importance of gaiters mainly because they will help you in keeping the crampon points away from the pant legs. They will also act as an excellent shield that will guard your legs every time the wind blows keeping them all warm and protected.
- Harness: To be safe during slip you should wear a harness with a rope attached to it, this rope will save you from falling. You must make sure that the loop of the harness fits you over all the layers of clothes that you are wearing. Also, try to get a harness that comes with ice clippers so you can clip your tools onto them while climbing.
Preparation for the trip:
After more than a century has passed since the invention of ice climbing as an adventure sport there have been newer tools and safety gears that have come into the market making ice climbing more feasible and less dangerous for everyone. If you have been gearing yourself up for some action and are looking for a place to begin then voila! Here are some tips that will come in handy. For starters, the extent of preparations that you must make to brace yourself for an ice climbing trip is multitudinous.
- Exercise: The very first thing is to train your body for the strenuous workout it is going to have on the trip. You could begin with performing some exercises that not only make your body strong but also help in increasing your stamina so that you can sustain your body weight at an incredible height with nothing but ice in front of you and unbelievable depth below you. Exercises such as squats, overhead press, pull ups, deadlifts, dips and step ups are perfect for this. You must also condition your body for the sub-zero temperatures, so it is not in for a shock at the time you reach your starting point.
Clothing: Wearing layered clothes are a must when you are going on an ice climbing trip because you spend hours even days just hanging in there in front of the ice. As you ascend, the temperature keeps on falling and unless you are wearing a tough, thick layers of warm clothes it will be very difficult for you to survive. There are other aspects of clothing that you must keep in mind. They include:
- Woolen Socks: Pack at least two pairs of socks because you have to make sure at every point during the climb that your feet are as warm and dry as possible. Try to look for socks that are thick and do not compress your feet inside the boots making them an uncomfortable wear after a few hours have passed.
- Lower: Choose a lower that is comfortable and stretchable so you can wear a lot of layers underneath it. Also, make sure that it is not bulky because you can keep adding the weight, remember that you will be the one who has to carry it all up against gravity.
- Head warmers: Woolen caps, wool buff, wool hats, neckwarmers, in short you must take along anything that will fit under your helmet and will keep you warm.
- Belay jacket and mittens: Get a belay jacket that is big enough so that you can wear it over all the layers that you are wearing underneath. For mittens, pick the ones that offer warmth on the inside and are not too heavy so you can belay without any problem.
- Insoles: The socks alone won’t be enough to give your feet the warmth they need. And it is necessary that you don’t let the cold reach your feet because that will make the climb impossible. So get yourself a pair of super feet insoles that will keep your feet quite warm throughout the climb.
- Climbing gloves: Wear gloves that are thin and waterproof because with everything wet you want to wear something that gives you a nice tight grip. You don’t have to worry about them keeping your hands warm because that is what mittens are for. One thing that you can do to keep your hands warm is to refrain from tightening up your grip on the axe as that will slow down the blood circulation to your hands.
- Food: It is impossible to take home prepared or even canned food on an ice climbing trip. MREs or meals ready to eat are an amazing option when it comes to food. They are ruggedized for use in extreme conditions and are impact resistant. They are packed in a hermetically sealed environment, so you don’t have to worry about them losing their nutritional value. MREs also come with a self-heating system so you don’t have to worry about heating them up manually. Apart from this, the MRE packs contain beverages such as tea and coffee that you would love treating yourself to after a climb. Every pack of meals, ready to eat has approximately 1300 calories that are enough to provide you energy for the day. You can get one at any military store or you can check our range of military grade MREs here, for short trips you can get 24 hours ration here.
- Backpack: If you are going in for a multi-pitch climb then you will need a small backpack where you can put in all your necessities for the day.
Preparing well for the trip will help in ensuring that you return with nothing but amazing memories that you etched out there.”