Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Aren’t you a brewery? You’re right, we are. And we’re also a brewery that happens to celebrate a day playing outdoors with a handcrafted beer. At Big Sky Brewing Company we try to find as much fun as possible on these short winter days. This includes Ice Climbing. Rather than just make it up –which we occasionally do – we turned to Big Sky Team Member and professional Mammut North America climber, Whit Magro for some insight.
- Assess objective hazards. Objective hazards are the things that can injure or kill you (avalanches, falling ice, falling rock, falling people, etc.) Scan your environment and identify these hazards during the approach.
- Examine the ice. Use common sense and ask yourself these questions. Is it well attached to the cliff or earth it’s flowing from? Does it have any major cracks or weak points? How does the sun affect it, and where is the sun? When in doubt leave it, that’s Whit’s motto.
- Have a plan. Plan your climb before engaging on the ice. Ask yourself, what looks like the hardest part of the pitch? Which path looks best and most efficient? Once you have a plan rack up accordingly.
- Keep it tight. Your harness needs to be well dressed and organized in a way that allows maximum efficiency while accessing the ice screws and quick draws. For example, keep your sharpest screws in the easiest access for the hardest section.
- Keep your balance by using the triangle theory. While climbing always stay balanced under your leading tool. Imagine your feet are the two bottom points of the triangle and your right or left hand is the leading point of the triangle.
- Swing right. Balance your body under it. Swing left. Balance your body under it. Back and forth, back and forth. This is the most basic and effective technique to become an efficient ice climber.
- Earn your Beer Ice Climbing isn’t easy, make sure you’ve earned your beer. Don’t dare crack a cold before the job is done. Just consider it your reward.
Good luck, have fun, and if you see Whit out on the ice be sure and give him a high five for us!
Photo courtesy of Jason Thompson.