Important Basks

It is possible for the novice ice climber to advance rapidly through the ranks of difficulty and accomplish some very impressive climbs within the first season. But technical ability on hard ice is only a secondary measure of a good ice climber. Far more important is the depth of a climber's experience with, and knowledge of, a host of related concerns. The climber must understand the phenomena of avalanches and mountain weather,- have a knowledge of snow conditions and the ability to navigate successfully and travel safely on snow and glaciers; and know how to avoid the hazards of falling rock and ice, collapsing cornices, and altitude illness. If an accident occurs, a good climber is fully prepared to effect a self-rescue and administer appropriate first aid. The best ice climbers are equally at home traveling on foot, skis, or snowshoes. They have developed an unconscious rapport with the mountains and are constantly filtering information from the environment through a screen of intuition and hard-won knowledge, Almost without thinking, this provides the appropriate response to any set of circumstances. Go slow, be cautious, and build experience gradually.

In addition, a number of considerations may help the aspiring ice climber progress to higher levels of safety, performance, and enjoyment. Once the basic skills have been acquired, specialized physical and mental training and new perspectives on the choice and use of equipment will shorten the apprenticeship and allow the climber to begin to lead desired routes sooner.


The wonder of a single finowflake outweighs the wisdom of a million meteorologists.

—Francis Bacon

Winter is not a season, it's an occupation.

—Sinclair Lewis

A little-praised side benefit of learning to ice climb is that the climber begins to recognize the beauty of savage weather. Such weather is responsible for the arc of a cornice, the spreading wings of icicles on a frozen waterfall, the sharp-edged clarity of the atmosphere when a cold front pushes out the storm, and the quickening of the blood and brain on frosty predawn starts. Sleet, snow, sun, wind, wet, thaw, gust, gale, blow, freeze, whiteout, haze, mist, fog, clouds: the ice climber is treated to a kaleidoscopic experience of high and wild places. Gradually learning to cope with ever more harsh conditions is as rewarding as learning to climb steeper and harder ice-Successfully interpreting the meaning of high cirrus clouds turning red in the sunset, or a sudden rise in temperature accompanied by a cessation of wind and lowering clouds not only allows retreat to be made in time to avoid an epic, but offers the satisfaction of being intimate with one of the most fascinating aspects of nature. The ice climber learns to face the storm with a grin, and the sun with dark glasses and adequate sunscreen to protect nose and lipsi

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