Ice Climbing has always been one of those activities where I see photos of people doing it and think “Man, that’s so cool! Those people are such badasses!” So of course, Matt sees the same photos and thinks “Man, I have got to give that a try!”
Luckily, our friends Jodie & Alex also enjoy trying new things, so the four of us made our way to Chickaloon, Alaska to go ice climbing on the Matanuska Glacier.
We booked our adventure via NOVA, an outdoors company that offers white water rafting and glacier hikes. Since we had a 9am start on a Sunday morning, we drove down the night before and tent camped at the NOVA office for free. We always love camping, and since we were able to park the car super close, we brought luxuries that are usually forgone during backpacking trips (like a cast iron sandwich maker for Jodie’s AMAZING Pizza Sandwiches).
The morning of our trip, we walked over to the office to meet our guides and be fitted for our gear. We were provided with mountaineering boots, crampons, harnesses, and helmets to ensure our safety. Also on our trip were 4 people from San Jose, California.
Once we reached the Matanuska Glacier we began the hike out, putting on our crampons once we reached the foot of the glacier. If you’ve never worn crampons before, it takes some getting used to. You have about 1.5″ of height added, and two sharp ‘fangs’ on the front of your foot that are really painful if you happen to catch your calf when you walk.
We had a beautiful day for climbing, and enjoyed the warm sun on our faces next to the cold of the glacier. When we reached where we climbed, the guides had set up 3 routes for everyone to climb, ranging in difficulty.
The way anchors are set for ice climbing was facinating to me. They use 2 ice screws to create a V in the ice, and thread the rope through the V. They repeat 2 more times for complete safety and voila! You can safely climb a glacier. [Note: there are specific conditions of the ice that are needed to safely set an anchor. Do research or get someone to help you before setting your own. Here is an awesome article from Backcountry.com]
The actual act of climbing was exhilarating. You mainly use your feet and ‘stub’ your toe into the ice, letting the crampon fangs grab hold, and continue as you ‘walk’ up the ice. We also used ice tools to provide more stability with our hands while we climbed. The ice tools were so cool: it only took a small tap to get the tip of the tool into the ice and able to completely support my weight (which I tested a few times with some missteps while climbing).
Our guides were also phenomenal. Nick, Lawrence, & Colin had the utmost professionalism, and Nick’s sense of humor kept the day fun. They enhanced the experience with their personalities, their climbing advice, and the way they always made sure people were getting their chance to climb.
Check out these photos of our adventure, and let me know: would you ever go ice climbing? (If yes, I will join you!)