We’ll work carefully on teaching you good footwork, i.e. how to get your weight over your feet. Usually your first time on the ice involves going up an easy slab without ice axes. With your palms against the ice and literally nothing to pull on, you’ll have no choice but to climb the ice wall with your legs. By practicing kicking your front points into the ice at different angles, you’ll soon discover the optimum angles for both striking the ice and then weighting the crampon.
Once we have your footwork down we’ll introduce the ice axe and teach you the proper technique for swinging it into the ice. This is the fun part. Right away we’ll try to help you discern the difference between a good and bad “stick” and we’ll also introduce the concept of the “self belay” where you are secured at all times to the ice through the ice axe and leash. Most ice climbing accidents occur because people never learned the difference between a good stick and one that shouldn’t be trusted. We’ll talk about how to get in and out of the ice axe leash, for placing and removing protection, and this course now also includes instruction on climbing with leashless ice axes. Other skills you’ll be introduced to include reading the ice, i.e. how to hone in on the those spots where the ice is strong and the picks will be easy to secure. We’ll also teach you various technical skills like rope handling, belaying, and how to catch a fall.
The intro course is usually taught at Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch where we’ll spend the day toproping ice of varying difficulty. How steep it gets will depend on your previous climbing experience, innate ability, and willingness to push it. It’s not uncommon for us to get people climbing vertical ice their first day out, especially if you have climbed rock before. In addition to the climbing skills, we’ll talk about how to stay warm, what to eat and how to dress.
Synnott Mountain Guides can supply any and all equipment and clothing you might need for the experience. We generally encourage people not to buy anything until they have completed the course as you will then be in a better position to know what exactly it is that you’ll need.
Multi-day courses will break into the intermediate curriculum on the second and third day and by the end of it you’ll be competently following mutli-pitch ice routes like Standard Route at Frankenstein or Cinema Gully on Mt. Willard.
- The Intro to Ice Climbing course is available during the core of the Northeast ice climbing season, which is generally December through March.
- Synnott Mountain Guides has existing courses running most weekends from January through March. This course can also be set up custom according to what works for your schedule, whether it’s a weekday or weekend.