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How do I get started ice climbing?

Professional climber and mountain guide Caroline George shares her ice climbing tips

Caroline George (Photo: Andrew Burr)
Caroline George

Caroline George is a professional climber and guide based in Salt Lake City, Utah. On Friday, she’ll be in Hyalite Canyon to teach a women's-only ice-climbing clinic with Kitty Calhoun as part of the Arc’teryx Bozeman Ice Festival. We caught up with George to get some advice for new and prospective ice climbers.

Caroline George

Caroline George

What's the appeal of ice climbing?
For me it’s the people and the fun community aspect of the competitions. I also like the medium, even though it’s somewhat less accessible because you have to learn about the structure of the ice and avalanche hazards.

There’s also a masochistic aspect to ice climbing, of course. It’s cold and you’re always in the shade. But it’s one of the most rewarding sports I’ve ever taken part in.

Where is your favorite place to ice climb?
The Banff/Canmore area is heaven on earth. You can park your car along the highway and do a 1,000-foot-long climb without even hiking very far. The whole area has a high concentration of world-class routes.

What should a beginner look for in gear? There are tons of crampon options on the market, not to mention boots.
The boots I climb in are shaped for ice, in that they have a stiff, rigid sole, and they're asymmetrical so that your big toes face inward and mimic what they would do in a technical rock-climbing shoe.

I would also recommend a monopoint crampon that can adapt to mixed climbing. It’s good to have one pair of crampons that fit every purpose, and the right monopoint will work just as well for beginners as for advanced climbers.

I wear the same harness for rock and ice climbing. It fits over my pants or my shorts, depending on the weather. I generally avoid metal buckles, which just make me cold.

—Stephanie Pearson

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Lead Photo: Andrew Burr