R143 Ice Climbing

Over the weekend, I helped instruct an ice climbing course in Wisconsin. We don’t have much climbable ice in Indiana, especially when the weather hovers around 60 degrees Fahrenheit for days at a time. However, Wisconsin has great ice!

I recently purchased a Nikon D80 that I’m still getting used to (hence the lack of picture updates for a few weeks), so I took it along to try it out in the cold. Here’s what I got.

ice climbing

The wall was thick with ice, and about 30-40 feet tall.


Saturday it hovered around 29 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun made the ice a little slushy on the surface in places.

Waterfall ice

The spring that feeds this waterfall must be pretty warm, as the creek and waterfall all had green plants and algae still growing, despite the 3 feet of snow on the ground.

Crampon check

Class consists of 2 evenings of classroom work, where the students learn some of the basic information on ice climbing (equipment, technique, knots, etc.), and 2 days of actual climbing and skills testing. There is also a written test, a 2 page reflective paper, and the students are also graded on their expedition behavior.

ice screw

We use top ropes on this wall, since the top is easily accessible and there are plenty of trees. We take ice screws just to show the students how they work.

frozen water

Sunday, the temperature plummeted to around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, with a vicious wind that dropped the temperature to -20 or so. Fortunately, our wall is in a hollow, well protected from the wind. It was still incredibly cold, and the pool at the base of the waterfall began to freeze.

The ice on Sunday was much more solid, with no slush. It was a bit brittle on top, but underneath was perfect ice.

boot with teeth

Most of the pictures were taken with a Nikon 105mm AF-S VR lens that I had just received on Thursday. I like that lens a lot, and I can’t wait to take more pictures with it!

Going for it

Mark here was one of the more daring students on the ice. He also took a few spectacular falls, but that’s part of the fun!

snow everywhere

Yes, there was a lot of snow in Wisconsin. On the drive back, we passed no less than 30 cars stranded in the median and side of the interstate. Several were upside or on their sides. The high winds caused several cars to overcorrect and veer off the road, into the snow. It was an intense couple of hours of driving.

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