An Ice Climbing Primer

The Cold, Hard Question
By Cameron M. Burns
  |  Gorp.com
Page 1 of 5   |  

Perhaps it was the late Scottish rock climber Tom Patey who summed up the most common response the average person has when they learn about the unique sport of ice climbing for the first time: "Ice is for pouring whiskey on."

With this one pithy comment Patey captured the contempt that he and others hold for the sport. And the quote's inclusion in various books and magazine articles over the past 20 years guaranteed it would be immortalized on the tongues of the disdainful for decades to come.

Patey was right: Ice climbing is weird. It's about kicking, hacking, and pressing minuscule points of metal attached to one's hands and feet into frozen water, water that clings vertically to boulders, cracks, shrubs, and whatever else can be found on the average mountain precipice.

But ice climbing's also an activity full of style and grace, a vertical dance of movement like its cousin, rock climbing. And, surprisingly, it's become one of winter's trendiest activities.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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