Wanting to get some advice via the Club’s hive mind.
I’ve been ice climbing before to Rjukan in Norway but planning on going with Eulee who hasn’t ice climbed outside yet. I’m too inexperienced to jump in the deep end and start leading myself so we’ll hire a guide for instruction and guiding. We haven’t decided on a destination yet either.
Anyone have any advice / helpful thoughts?
I’d say that going back to Rjukan would be a good option. There is loads of accessible ice of all grades. There are also top rope options on some of the climbs meaning you could maybe get a couple of days guiding/instruction before doing your own thing. As a lot of the climbs are single pitch, you can get away without worrying about multi pitch antics (abolokov threads, abseils etc) and the anchors at the top are often trees. You would want to get the guide to go through all that stuff anyway so you have the knowledge but you can keep things really simple when you’re out on your own.
If you are doing easyish, single pitch routes with tree belays at the top, then from a gear point of view, the only new bit of knowledge is ice screw placement. The guide/instructor can also go through movement on ice, axe placement etc
I’ve not been to Cogne so that might be suitable too (Rob’s your man here).
Other advice I’d give is
- take several pairs of decent gloves. They can wet out easily if conditions are bad. Mitts for belaying are good
- hand warmers are awesome
- so are belay jackets
- clear the ice from the middle of the screws before setting off for the next climb
- but don’t put the metal screw to your lips to blow the ice out!
Thanks for all the lovely advice, Chris. I shall have to take a look at Cogne as other peeps have mentioned that place too.
I’d also say Rjukan is a good bet. A close second would be the Ecrins; I’ve stayed in Argentiere-la-Besee twice with mixed ability groups. Ceillac in particular is great for beginner and mid-grade ice climbers. You also have more options for guides in France and prices are lower than Norway (plus they have pain au chocolat).
I second all of Chris’ points. I wear thinnish gloves to climb for maximum dexterity and then put mitts over the top at the belay. It’s worth learning to put your belay jacket on as soon as you get to the belay, even though you’ll still be really hot.
Thanks Tom for the further useful tips. Yes, the first time I went ice climbing with Tim, Fran, Paul and Manik was to Rjukan… and it was brilliant (only down side was the price of everything).
Will also take a look at Ecrins on your suggestion.
Cogne is great though perhaps not for pure beginners. The upsides are … well its in Italy not Norway - wine, food, coffee and prices; the downsides are… hmmm not sure there are any. It gets warmer earlier so things can melt out but I’ve been 4 times and always managed to climb. Approaches can be long (from 20 min to a couple hours) but that’s a nice way to get the muscles going and be warm while someone is leading. I’d say most places have bolted belays so both belays and abseiling is easy. Can get very crowded on weekends. Back to the beginner bit - not a lot of grade 2 stuff. but plenty of easy 3’s… ah yeah it’d be fine.
I get cold hands so I trade dexterity for warmth even while climbing but when I started I climbed with mitts so heck even puffy gloves are great in my book! Flask of tea and food that doesn’t readily freeze is good. Cheese can get quite disgusting, but nutella works OK and cliff bars don’t freeze as much as other bars. Oh I could go on. Can’t wait to be home in a week and whacking some ice!
Thanks for the helpful tips, Yvonne. Do you (or anyone else) have any
the best training tool I’ve found is the ole rolly stick. Get broom handle, drill hole, add a string, add weights to bottom of string. Roll up, roll down. Can place hands up (i.e. you can see your fingers) or down(looking at back of hand). brutal but effective; also pulls ups with your axes on the pull up bar to get used to that grip; calf exercises - heel over the edge of stair and just do lifts. And then just general fitness for the approaches.
You could try standing fully dressed in a lukewarm shower while holding something heavy above your head.
No, wait, you’re going to the Continent and not Scotland so you can skip that phase.
yeah I was thinking it would be good to just hold ice cubes
I found calf raises really good for training ahead of front-pointing, as well as the Ellis Brigham ice wall in their Covent Garden store.
Btw, would recommend Rjukan over Cogne for an initial ice destination based on there being more single pitch climbs at Rjukan.
Thanks Will! I had a session at the Ellis Brigham ice wall about 5 years ago but having another season or two is any excellent suggestion. I know what to ask for Christmas
Season = session. Stupid autocorrect.
So… <ta, da> we’ve booked to go to Rjukan from 12 to 19 February, to coincide with the ice climbing festival (12-14 Feb):
Thanks to everyone for their helpful advice. You guys are the best!
Right, that’s it, I’ve just got to go ice climbing again. Is the Devil’s Appendix in condition yet?
Not yet… I’m going to Wales or Scotland next weekend though
Forecast is for mild weather coming in by the weekend so Scotland probably
a safer bet
Indeed. We’ve abandoned going away this weekend
@Tim_McD has decided to join us for the long weekend over the ice climbing festival weekend, so we were wondering if anyone fancies joining us on this trip (to make up another pair)…
We’ve sorted out: car hire and accommodation (booked a holiday home) for all nights
You would need: to book your flight going out Friday morning (12 Feb) and returning Monday evening (15 Feb).