Fifteen feet above my last screw, the ice turns to complete shit. Unconsolidated, candled, air-filled, de-laminated mush. No way this crap is gonna take a good stick. I can see the water trickling behind the flow on this late season WI5. The rope hangs from my harness, clear of the ice. Checking in on my placements, I have one mega placement at shoulder level. Hips close to the ice, standing tall, I can feel the back of my ax pressing on my chest. Good feet. Swinging my one tool at the mush, an unsettling crack slams through the icicle just below my feet rattling my nerves and shaking my confidence. A drip of sweat on the tip of my nose. Breathing regains control. Forearms beginning to burn, working my feet up on the front points of my crampons – a little higher, a little higher still – I need to reach what looks like decent ice just out of reach above the mush and get another screw. Reaching. Reaching higher.
It would be easy to ‘insert product placement here’ on this image and say “Ahh the climbing life, buy our crap.” We could easily say, “No longer will you have to deal with the work-a-day humdrum of pumping out on your weekend ice climbing. With DRY ICE Tools, you can train indoors, climb away your fears, train yourself into sinewy perfection, take your climbing to the next level…” Blah, blah, bullshit.
But really, why bother? If you’re reading this, you probably already get it and can see through such mediocre tactics. If you don’t that’s ok (but you know more that you think you do).
And “it” is basically this: what’s better than climbing? More Climbing. We read about it. We search for it on the internet. We steep ourselves in the booming gym landscape. We drive for it. Travel for it. We share our iPhone pics fully believing that we’re the next big climbing photographers. We go to film fests that celebrate it. We attend climbing rendezvous events to commune with our climbing brethren. We are the devil stick, hacky sack people of the campus quad now commingling in the desert.
What’s really important is the climbing and the people we meet when we’re climbing – the feeling of freedom, of the hills, and the sharing of a beer with a good partner. This is what’s really at the heart of Furnace Industries and the driving force behind our creation of the Dry Ice Tool and the Kronos. We made them because we wanted to climb more, to meet more people, and share a genuine climbing experience.
But getting ready for the ice climbing season is nearly impossible because climbing with real ice tools in a gym – while kind of awesome – is also kind of nuts. Our tools are there to help us all simply climb more, enjoy the moment described above, prepare for it, and most importantly, climb safely.
With that mindset, here’s a primer to get you ready for the ice. As with any activity or skill, the more times you do it, the more times you touch the wall, the better climber you’ll be.
The Double Tap
The DT is this: with a pair of dry ice tools, climb a route, but at each placement, place the tool, then reverse the move, then place it again, move up, repeat. This exercise is especially helpful on shorter walls by effectively tripling the distance climbed. Bonus: To mix it up, place the tool, leave it there, reverse to the previous placement, match, match again, then move up to the hanging tool, and continue on.
The worst kind of route setting is a route that is tough just because it has long moves. However, in ice and mixed climbing, these kinds of situations happen all the time, so it’s better to train for them than to complain about it.
Find a route with large holds. The route does not need to be super steep. Beginner walls work perfect for this. Climb up, but reach as far as you possibly can, choking up on the lower placement, and working your feet up. Then reach even higher. Get the highest hold you can. Repeat. What you’re working here is your balance and stability with a low placement, and on a steeper route, your shoulders and core. Long moves like these require a strong core to stabilize the rotation in your shoulders needed to reach that much higher.
The Traverse is simple, but the rewards are ten-fold. If you do nothing else with dry ice tools, this is not to be missed. Traversing with ice tools is hard because you can’t simply ‘shoulder’ your way through a move as you would do when bouldering. The tools isolate your feet so your awareness is fully focused on your lower body – something often overlooked in today’s steep gym terrain.
Grab a pair of tools and traverse. The longer the traverse, the more time spent on the wall, the better climber you’ll be. Simple as that.
The Downward Spiral
It goes without saying that down climbing is an integral part of climbing. Reversing moves when ice climbing is a special thing, often required when a safe anchor is not possible and good judgment rules the day. Climb up and climb down. IT IS HARD, but stick with it. That moment when you’re outside and you need to reverse the moves, you’ll be ready.
Lastly, it’s no secret that rock climbing on many different types of rock makes you a better rock climber. We believe that many different types of climbing can also make you a better climber. Dry tools help to diversify your time in the gym. Indoor training doesn’t have to be just rock climbing.
Climb safely, have fun, and remember, it’s not climbing till you’re bleeding.
This article was written & submitted by Ben Carlson a renown photographer and founder of Furnace Industries.
For more tips and advice for ice climbing – Furnace Industries
Pick up a Pair of Dry Ice Tools – Here
Check out his photography & videography – Ben Carlson Photo
Do you have a training exercise you use in the rock gym to prep for Ice climbing?
Share it with us in the comment section below!