As the snow begins to fall, there is a stir in the ice climbing community. The question on many minds is “Is __(insert climbing area)__ in yet?”
“In” is a term that is used when the flow of water (whether it be from snow melt or a naturally occurring source such as a stream or river) begins its freeze-thaw cycles that produce thick walls of ice. Flows can begin to form as early as late October and last through the spring. As a beginner ice climber, the season may not get fully underway until January when more ice is open and easier destinations are no longer as crowded.
To get set-up for your first season, the essential gear list isn’t as intimidating as you may think:
• Sturdy boots (mountaineering, ski, or tele boots)
• WARM down belay coat
• ATC/belay device
• WARM gloves and hat
Most of these items many people already have for other outdoor activities, and anything you might need to buy, consider going to a used or consignment gear shop for your first few seasons. Ice tools are good to purchase if you find them cheap, but in your first season, you will most likely be climbing single pitches so you and your partner can use one pair with no troubles.
If you are interested in getting on some ice but don’t know of anyone to go with, www.mountainproject.com and www.abc-of-iceclimbing.com are great user-run online forums to find route information, gear, and potential partners. They will also have other resources for finding clinics around your area so you can learn the techniques to have a great first season!