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New climber could use some friendly advice
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By jduby
Sep 18, 2012

Ok, so I just popped my cherry on skaftafell last week doing glaciers and crevasses and was hooked immediately. Ice climbing seems to be one thing I am naturally good at and so I bought some basic gear as soon as I got home (tools, harness, crampons, helmet, etc.)

I currently live in Washington d.c. I would like to get in touch with some more experienced climbers who might be willing to take me along and show me...the ropes (Ahem). Any recommendations? I am also wondering if anyone is aware of any climbing locations near the east coast of the u.s. that are popular with or would be good for beginners. I am looking to schedule a trip to Colorado or Utah this winter. Any recommendations there?

Also, I am experiencing some sticker shock at mountaineering boots right now. I just blew my whole wad in iceland and I don't think I can afford 600$ boots along with the rest of the gear. I noticed in most of the boot forums that more experienced climbers made references to cheap, but good boots, but did not mention names. Does anyone have any recommendations for stiff soled relatively inexpensive boot? or is this a situation where it is worth breaking out the visa?

I am an experienced hiker and have been doing long distance back country hiking for several years now, so I am not completely unfamiliar with boots.


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Sep 18, 2012
El Chorro

I can't give you much advice about ice gear, other than to find some friends at the climbing gym who can help.

The east is littered with small ice climbing areas, but NY and NH have some of the best anywhere. Definitely don't go your first winter w/o taking a trip up to the NE.


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By Wannabe
Sep 18, 2012

Check out potomacmountainclub.org they're a DC rock and mountain club and what I know about ice climbing I picked up with them locally in the Shenandoah and on Mt. Washington in NH. The Blue Ridge Section of the AAC would be another place to check-in and see if anybody wanted to have you tag along for some ice. Just a warning the ice season in the Mid Atlantic was miserable last year. Here's hoping we get another good one!


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By Ben Brotelho
From Albany, NY
Sep 18, 2012
Epic free solo with a pack on

with boots, fit is key. I have the Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX and I love them. My dad has them as well, loves them, and so does my buddy who owns the same pair. But, a boot that works well for some may not fit ideally for you.

I suggest going to a good outfitter (the Mountaineer in Keene Valley, NY, for instance) to try on many pairs, walk around, and really get the right fit.

Also, don't feel like you need to break the bank on your first pair of boots. Luckily, I got my Sportiva's as a graduation present, otherwise I'd be rocking the Scarpa Inverno. My main climbing buddy has been kicking ass in his for about 3 years now, and while they are falling apart after 3 years of (very) heavy use, they have never held him back and he leads 4's and 4+'s without a problem. That said, he is looking at buying a pair of Sportivas when he gathers the moolah...they are just superior for approaches, comfort, and dialing down a secure fit.

I second going to the Adirondacks and New Hampshire to 'cut your teeth' on some NEice before going out to Colorado. We have some awesome ice in NY! Chapel Pond Canyon is great, as is NF of Pitchoff, and in general the whole Keene-Valley/Lake Placid area.

Have fun!


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By Martin le Roux
From Superior, CO
Sep 18, 2012
Stairway to Heaven

jduby wrote:
Ok, so I just popped my cherry on skaftafell last week doing glaciers and crevasses and was hooked immediately... I am looking to schedule a trip to Colorado or Utah this winter. Any recommendations there?


If you want to learn more about glaciers, crevasses, etc. then you should wait until next summer and head for the Pacific NW or the Canadian Rockies. But if you want to learn about vertical waterfall ice then a couple of days this winter at the ice park in Ouray, CO would be a great place to start.


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By jduby
Sep 18, 2012

thanks for the info everyone. I will definitely look into the northeast, as that is where my family lives and it will be cheap to stay there. Regarding colorado, b.c., or Washington, is it a friendly community in these places for newbies?

Also, I bought a pair of scarpa charmoz gtx. They were the most reasonably priced 5 star rated boot I could find, so I hope they work out ok.


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By Gunkiemike
Sep 18, 2012

jduby wrote:
Also, I bought a pair of scarpa charmoz gtx. They were the most reasonably priced 5 star rated boot I could find, so I hope they work out ok.


If they don't, we'll be seeing them next spring on EBay...right? And you'll be asking again for boot recommendations. You DID try them on before you bought, I hope.

On a more constructive note - you're only half a day's drive from normally reliable ice (meaning in typical winters, last winter being decidedly NON-normal) in the Catskills of NY. There's ice to kick and swing at from mid-to-late December until at least the earliest part of March. There's enough info here on MP to whet your appetite; Molitoris's guidebook will fill in the rest.


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By Dan Flynn
Administrator
From MA
Sep 18, 2012
5b upper pitch in the clouds

Nice general ice gear advice from a Catskills guide:

bigfootmountainguides.com/about/winter-gear-stuff-that-works>>>

Nothing cheap here, though.


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Sep 18, 2012
Bocan

jduby wrote:
Also, I bought a pair of scarpa charmoz gtx. They were the most reasonably priced 5 star rated boot I could find, so I hope they work out ok.



Yeah great boot....for MY feet. You'll also fine that boots even fit different within brands. My Nepal Evo's I love and rarely use any of my other boots besides these, but the LS Trango last doesn't work for my foot.

Footwear is the one thing in climbing where it's all about fit. I don't care if it's a gazillion star boot. If it doesn't fit, well it doesn't fit. And when it comes to alpine and ice you'll be MISERABLE in a poorly fitted boot.


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Sep 18, 2012
Axes glistening in the sun

Catskills are fun and can be downright COLD!! PA has some ice that would be a little closer. Some stuff forms up in the Water Gap. I think you can find the link on MP. I checked it out when we were thinking about moving back east, but am happy to have stayed in CO.

You should get into rock as well. Break the bank man!!!There are some short little climbs right along the Potomac depending on water level nothing special, but it's cool to say you've climbed there.

Have fun!


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By Gunkiemike
Sep 19, 2012

HBL wrote:
You should get into rock as well.


I'll second that. It's also a lot easier and more pleasant to learn your knots and polish your belaying technique in mild weather rather than when your fingers are too cold to bend and it's taking all your attention to keep your feet from going numb.

But that's just me. I've met quite a few folks who only ice climb and call spring/summer/fall the "off season".


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By jduby
Sep 21, 2012

Done and done. Heading out to west virginia tonight with my crazy ass neighbors...


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By Michael C
From New Jersey
Sep 25, 2012
Base of Main Flow, The Narrows.

Dan Flynn wrote:
Nice general ice gear advice from a Catskills guide: bigfootmountainguides.com/about/winter-gear-stuff-that-works>>> Nothing cheap here, though.


"Bigfoot" also known as Ryan is an EXCELLENT climbing guide. If you do decide to go to the Catskills or anywhere else in NY I highly recommend him. He's very knowledgeable and has also put up a lot of routes in the area.

"Griz Guides" sells a PA Ice Climbing guidebook. If you don't want to go all the way up to NY you can definitely find some quality climbs in PA. Especially the Narrows, which is just as popular as some of the ice climbs further north.

As far as boots, I bought the Scarpa Invernos last year (along with axes and crampons) as I had just started on ice the year before and was looking to get into it regularly. Price was definitely a factor. The boots are decent, but I think I would have rather bought more of a "performance" boot...the kind that look like hiking boots rather than heavy duty hard plastic boots. Obviously that shifts the price but for beginner boots bought with axes and crampons, I really can't complain.


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By Garret Nuzzo-Jones
From Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 4, 2012
Cleaning up in Jenny Lake.

jduby wrote:
thanks for the info everyone. I will definitely look into the northeast, as that is where my family lives and it will be cheap to stay there. Regarding colorado, b.c., or Washington, is it a friendly community in these places for newbies? Also, I bought a pair of scarpa charmoz gtx. They were the most reasonably priced 5 star rated boot I could find, so I hope they work out ok.

I'd say you should book a flight to Utah after keeping an eye on the conditions this winter. Stairway to Heaven is extremely reliable and will give you endless toprope laps. If you're feeling confident you can move on to some other climbs in the area. The ice park in Ouray is also excellent for working on technique.


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By LeftCoastGeek
From Salt Lake City, UT
Oct 15, 2012
Ice gear

The Charmoz is a good boot. I picked up some used for a good price and have been happy with them so far.
My best advice is to go to the Ouray Ice Fest in January 2013. You can demo EVERYTHING you want there. See what works best/fits you best and then pick the rest of your gear based on what you liked using.


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By JoeValley
Oct 15, 2012

Come to the Ice Fest:ourayicepark.com/


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By Jace Mullen
From Oceanside, Ca
Oct 15, 2012

Regarding Ice Fest (I don't feel like starting another thread so sorry for the mini hijack), What clinic would be best for someone with lots of experience leading rock but none swinging tools? Into to Ice or Novice Ice?


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By LeftCoastGeek
From Salt Lake City, UT
Nov 3, 2012
Ice gear

Jace, I don't think it matters which class. Just go climb, get some tips and you'll pick it up. Just my 2 cents.
Kev


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By von dykes
Nov 3, 2012

Boots and gloves are the pieces of gear where you should not go cheap. It's a matter of personal preference ( size of hand, dexterity requirement, ability to tolerate cold temps..etc), so I recommend experimenting. Rent or demo different brands then whip out that visa bro! Safe climbing!


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By C'est La Vie
Nov 3, 2012

jduby wrote:
I don't think I can afford 600$ boots along with the rest of the gear. I noticed in most of the boot forums that more experienced climbers made references to cheap, but good boots, but did not mention names.


A lot of companies make great boots that do not cost anywhere near that price. $600 should get you a serious boot. I'm not anywhere close to the East coast, but if you find yourself out west, Hyalite near Bozeman can be an excellent place for the climber of any skill level.


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By Kari Post
From Keene, NH
Nov 4, 2012

North Conway, NH also hosts the Washington Valley Ice Fest first weekend in February. It's a bit closer to DC than Ouray. I haven't been to it before but plan on going this year and from what I hear you can try and demo just about any gear and it's a ton of fun. I'd absolutely look into it.


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By Medic741
From Pittsford, New York
Nov 4, 2012
When I was a bum at Frey

The scarpa invernos are a perfectly capable boot for $300

Check out the dacks


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By jduby
Nov 5, 2012

JasonJNSmith wrote:
Come to the Ice Fest:ourayicepark.com/


I'm there baby. I'm getting there a few days early to climb before it gets too crazy.


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By Scott McMahon
From Boulder, CO
Nov 5, 2012
Bocan

Michael C wrote:
As far as boots, I bought the Scarpa Invernos last year (along with axes and crampons) as I had just started on ice the year before and was looking to get into it regularly. Price was definitely a factor. The boots are decent, but I think I would have rather bought more of a "performance" boot...the kind that look like hiking boots rather than heavy duty hard plastic boots. Obviously that shifts the price but for beginner boots bought with axes and crampons, I really can't complain.


I really agree with that. I'd only buy plastic if you can pick up a pair used and super cheap. Otherwise you'll just end up buying new leather boots later. I woudn't waste your money.


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By shoo
From Boston, Massachusetts
Nov 5, 2012
Rock wars, Red River Gorge

If you are going to spend lots of money on something, it should be boots. A good pair can last you a decade, saving you money and happiness in the long run. Also be sure that whatever pair of boots you get is specifically intended for technical ice, including super stiff sole, heel and toe welts (you can get away without the toe ones depending on your crampon type), etc.

Fit is the most crucial bit here. You want technical and glove-like without cutting off circulation. The only real way to tell if you have the "right fit" is to compare with a wide variety. Try on with the sock you think you're going to use, preferably one pair of thick mountaineering style socks.

Personally, I think pretty much everyone who isn't doing high altitude climbing should avoid plastics like the plague. Yeah, they're cheap, warm, and work. They're also bulky, are hard to adjust the fit, heavy, a pain in the ass to hike in, and are uncomfortable. If you cheap out and buy plastics, you'll almost certainly get something else later down the road. Go with purpose-made leather/synthetic.

The standard boot in the northeast is the La Sportiva Nepal Evo. Pretty much the BD c4 of boots. Everyone's got them. They do everything pretty damn well. Lots of room to fine-tune the fit and warmth. Should pretty much be your benchmark. There are sexier boots out there. You can spend more money and get ones that are better at pretty much everything, but these are standard for a good reason.


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By Dustin Smith
From Silver Spring, MD
Nov 5, 2012

I'm also in DC and am starting to prepare for a Rainier climb next year. Although it looks like you've already got boots I'd highly recommend the Eastern Mountain Sports in Dulles. I was looking at ordering different sizes of boots online since I didn't know my size but found out that that EMS location has a decent stock of mountaineering boots. Nepal Evos, Spantiks, Baruntes, Mont Blancs, and a few plastics. Definitely a great resource to be able to try on before buying and the guy there told me it's the only place within a few hour radius that has that kinda thing. They also have several models of crampons and ice axes as well. The guy there also pointed me to Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Mountaineering Section (mentioned above) and I signed up for their list serve and as long as the season cooperates they have several planned ice climbing events. Finally, EarthTreks in Rockville has an indoor ice climbing evening planned in early December where you can practice on synthetic ice.


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