First find a frozen waterfallor a house-sized cliff covered with enough ice to sink the Titanic. Strap crampons to your feet and pick up two small ice axes, one for each hand. Then strap on your harness, put on a helmet, and start making your way up the face, kicking and cutting holds into the ice.
Sound like fun? It is, and even rank beginners can feel the satisfaction of standing 40 feet up a seemingly vertical pitch of ice.
The Girdwood-based Ascending Path guide service runs a wide variety of trips, including a special program for beginners. Leaving from Anchorage or Girdwood, they travel to several destinations, depending on conditions and the skill level of participants. Ascending Path's beginner sessions are designed to be both reassuring and as challenging as the climber desires.
This activity takes the better part of the day, including driving to the site, hiking in (which can be an adventure in its own right), learning the basics of safety and technique (watching for others, avoiding falling ice, checking your holds, using proper belay procedures), then taking several turns climbing.
Note: While ice climbing is more a matter of finesse and technique than it is of sheer muscle power, arm strength does come in handy. If your normal exercise routine skimps on upper-body work, you might want to change gears before taking this on. The outfitter will provide crampons, boots, helmets, harnesses, safety and first-aid equipment, and lunch and soft drinks. The guides also bring along some extra warm clothes, but be sure you have a good stash of extra layers as well as hats and mittens, because you'll chill quickly when you're standing around waiting for your turn.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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