by Rope Gunn

Greetings all and welcome to another Ice Season. That’s right you heard me its time to tickle the drips baby! Climbing ice can be an experience like no other. Ascending an ever-changing medium in the resplendent winter landscape. The quiet serenity of the snow covered backcountry. The feel of a perfect ice tool placement in plastic perfection. The burning in your calves the numbing cold in your toes the huge dinner plates exploding in your face. Uhm dude …..that last part doesn’t sound so cool you say? Well that’s what I’m gonna help you out with. Preparing yourself and your gear for a positive experience on the ice doesn’t take much but it can make or break your ice experience. It’s time to belly up to the bar people. If your going to climb ice you gotta have the gear and once you’ve got it you have to maintain it. This applies to ALL your gear. So here’s a few tips to help you tune up before you head up.


- Clothing once again is not optional. Keeping yourself warm and dry in varying conditions is crucial. A layering system that is easily adjusted to climate and physical activity is the key. Make sure you have adequate layers that are easily accessible. That belay jacket’s doing you no good buried in the bottom of the pack.

- Nikwax everything. I think that’s pretty direct huh? I’m talkin power stretch, gloves, fleece, boots, you get the idea. Trust me getting wet SUUUCKS!

- “Get a Rope”. Make that ropes. Dry double ropes are the ticket on ice. Make sure your ropes will shed water. Some dry treatments are better than others so if in doubt hit em with an aftermarket dry treatment to restore their water shedding abilities. Another important issue for ice climbing ropes is to inspect them before you go . Uhh remember those picks and crampons that you sharpened to a fine point . Yeah they eat ropes for breakfast.

- First Aid Kits are never more important than here. Once again refer to “pointes sharpicus”. Need I say more?

- Insulated water bottles? Doh! Remember Homer we’re ice climbing and ice is frozen water right. Keep your drinking water liquid by wrapping it with foam and duct tape or buy some insulated bottles


- Got Sharpie? Hey don’t be a dullard! Hone all your points with an 8” and 4” mill bastard and a small round file for the curves of your screws. Ice tool performance varies greatly depending on how sharp the points are. Dull points on your tools, crampons, screws or hooks seriously degrade their performance. Not only does it impede placement it also compromise the ice.

- Picks need a little love for optimum performance. Start with the 8” file and restore the bevel on the tip so it’s front angle is about 45degrees. Don’t get crazy here. If it’s too sharp it will dull very easily. Flip the tool over often to keep the angle even on both sides. Use long strokes away from your body. With the 4” file you can improve the hooking ability of your picks by filing the bottom edge so that it angles down toward the tip. Hey, don’t forget the little people here. The small teeth behind the picks point can be fine tuned with the 4” file to ease removal. If you bevel the sides down at a 45-degree angle it makes life much easier when removing tools.

- Crampons are cake. File the front points the same as your tool picks with the 8” file. On the bottom points all you want to do is file the front and back of each point. DO NOT file the sides.

- Screw It. Here’s the bummer. Once you ding em you’ll never get that factory edge back. Easy there big fella. Don’t toss em yet( unless you want to toss em my way). With a small round file you can do damage control and restore order to your ice rack. First file off the bent metal on the teeth and any burrs on the sides. Remember…..Baby Steps, we’re fine-tuning here. Then slowly reshape the teeth to match another undamaged screw.

- If the Sheath Fits Wear It. Now that you’ve created a plethora of sharp points don’t forget to cover them up. Pick covers, crampon bags and rope bags are invaluable when it comes to points.


- Ok I know you’ve heard it, but it’s true. The best training for ice climbing is……….You got it. Ice Climbing! That being said there’s still other ways to get yourself tuned up for the ice.

- Can you say CARDIO? Good I knew you could. Ice climbing typically involves long approaches and high elevations. A powerful cardiovascular system and aerobic fitness give you the upper hand in the upper elevations. Running, Hiking, Biking and Skiing all benefit ice climbers.

- Strength Good. Hit the gym people. You can go a long way towards preventing the dreaded burn with a good training program. For ice season let’s focus on the Forearms ( don’t forget front and back), Biceps ( the curls are for the girls) Triceps, Lats and Calves. Over all leg strength is often overlooked when training for climbing. Big mistake. Stairmaster, squats, leg presses and extensions should be included in your training.

- It Burns When I………….. Whoa!! This sounds like a personal problem to me. The dreaded burn. Forearms and calves seem to be the hot spots. To help manage forearm burn use a good leash on your tools. One with a keeper loop that holds it in close to the shaft of your tool helps keep your hands close to the shaft so you can relax your grip while hanging straight-armed from your tools. Relax your grip dude! Don’t kill the handle make love to the handle. Shake it out when you get the chance. You can alternate hands at a good rest and shake em out to get the blood flowing again. There are a few things you can do to help prevent the infamous Calve Burn. First is to keep your knees in and heels down to engage the secondary points on your crampons. Be creative with your foot placements. There are a wide variety of placement options available on ice. Ledges, cups and pockets are some features that facilitate non-front pointing foot placements. Use these to your advantage when plotting your line and take advantage of a good rest when one appears.

So there it is. A quick guide to get you tuned up for ice climbing. The next step is out the door. So go get some!