Water Guide

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Good ice can be found around the world, often in the most unlikely places. In a cold year excellent and challenging (though often short-lived) ice climbing turns up in a number of unexpected places—for example, Georgia in the United States, a locale more normally associated with warm Southern charm than with icy cliffs. The Caucasus Mountains in Russia contain huge mixed routes and pure ice climbs. Circling the globe, the high mountains of equatorial Africa, South America, and New Guinea contain very fine ice. The Himalaya, the greatest range on earth, offers the greatest ice climbs. At either pole the mountains are literally buried in glacier ice. The possibilities for discovery are endless for anyone committing the time, energy, and money to research and travel to these places. In this overview of world ice I will touch only lightly on these out-of-the-mainstream or very exotic locations, and deal primarily with the popular, easily accessible, and reasonably economical areas.

The Western Hemisphere Alaska

Alaska has immense potential for both alpine-type and frozen waterfall climbing. Most of the ice climbing that has been done in the high mountains of the state has occurred in the Alaska Range, home of Denali, North Americas highest peak. Denali is like an oversized version of Mont Blanc—a range unto itself, replete with its own versions of the Peuterey Ridge, Brenva Face, and Chamonix Aiguilles, Any climb on Denali is a high-altitude expedition or super-alpine problem. The lower surrounding peaks, however, offer wonderful high-caliber routes from 2,100 to 5,000 feet high on the many facets of Mount Hunter, Mount Huntington, the Rooster Comb, and others.

The Alaska Range, Denali in particular, has some of the worst weather in the world, Approaches are either by foot, dog sled, or skis, all of which take several days, or by ski plane, which takes half an hour from the ramshackle village of Talkeetna, reachable by car or train from Anchorage.

In winter very accessible frozen waterfall climbing is available around Valdez.

Since 1975 local and visiting climbers have established hundreds of excellent routes of all grades, from low-angle, one-pitch introductory climbs, to 600-foot ascents of grade IV, Wl5 and 6, such as the cauliflowered pillars of Wowie Zowie. In December and January the days are very cold and extremely short (five hours of daylight at the turn of the year), so the best months for climbing are February and March.

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