Monday, March 19, 2007

Climbing a mountain of ice in nine weeks

Have you aver seen the documentaries of mountaineers and ice climbers well that's me! I have climbed some of the biggest mountains around the world and climbed some of the steepest ice of frozen water falls and glaciers.

Why do I do it?

Well, I get asked this all question the time and I always give the same, reply “because it is there”
This however my not be the real truth, it is something about the challenge and being away from the crowds, being on the front of a 300 meter cliff with only a pair of crampons and ice axes between you and the ground, putting all your skills and strengths as an ice climber against the odds.
It makes me feel alive, and to be honest when I am ice climbing, I am me! Me Ashley Barnard the ice climber, free from the rest of the world, nothing hidden, not pretending to be a better or worse person but just pure human spirit.

Ice Climbing is not for the fait hearted, it takes practice and courage to climb this fragile substance. After all it is only water.
If you fancy taking up the sport but do not know where to start then keep reading.

The best way to start ice climbing is to go out into the hills with an experienced climber or hill walker, and start walking the hills in winter, the whole process can be done in one season so I shall break it down into sections for you.

Buy your self a pair of crampons and a pair of ice axes; these can be bought at any good outdoor retailer. But before going out to buy just any old gear, remember that these are the tools of the ice climber and they are the only items that will be holding you to the ice so if you can not afford to buy the best then wait and save your money until you can, you will be great full of this later on.

Right let’s start:

Week 1-2: Walk the hills with your crampons and hard snow this will give you feel for them and how to walk with spikes on your feet. (Believe me the first time you do this you do not want to be wearing an expansive pair of pants)

Week 3-4: Start walking on steeper ground, look for shallow gullies where you will now be needing the use of one axe to keep you balanced, and to stop a fall. (For how to stop your self when sliding down a mountain I shall cover this in part two later on this year)

Week 5-6: go out with your more experienced climbing partner as now you will be needing to use a rope for safety. Look around your hills and mountains for steeper gullies around 45 degrees to 65 degrees and climb this in pitches (stages) stopping when ever you come across a safe place to rest or stand. You should by now also be using ice protection that you have been introduced to by your climbing partner. Unfortunately it is to complex and difficult to explain how to use ice screws, dead men and snow stakes in an article, so ask for assistance regarding placing ice protection form your friend or an instructor.

Week 7-9: you should by now have some confidence in moving on steep ground using both ice axes to progress. So now during these next three weeks you are going turn form a winter hill climber into an ice climber. Go out to where you know there was a stream or small water fall running in the summer, and with any luck it will be now cold enough so as to be frozen into a nice ice climb. Please note do not go out to some massive ice fall that you know of, and try to climb it. Not only will you probably not succeed but you run the risk of killing your self and possibly others by you lack of experience.

So did you enjoy your self? If not then this type of recreation is probably not for you, but if you did then this is the begging of the rest of your life, there is a whole world out there for you to climb just climb safely but most of be free and enjoy your self.

About the Author
Ashley Barnard makes it sounds easy to ice climb but the truth is it takes time and practice now in his fithteen year of ice climbing he is now writing articles on this subjct to give you an idea on how to make your winter exciting