Climbing The Ice Of NC’s Mountains
As fall turns into winter, North Carolina’s mountains provide snow and ice that’s perfect for skiing, snowtubing, ice-skating and sledding. But if you’re looking for something more daring and adventurous than any of these, North Carolina also provides something you wouldn’t expect: ice climbing. In fact, some consider North Carolina to be the Mecca of southern ice climbing.
Recreational ice climbing dates back to the 19th century. As the term indicates, it is very similar to rock climbing, the only difference being that the climbing is done on icefalls, frozen waterfalls or cliffs and rock slabs that are covered by frozen water. Traditional gear includes climbing boots with crampons (metal spikes for digging into the ice), an ice axe and ice screws. Typically for climbing vertically, a climber will kick his legs in order to plant crampons into the ice, and then swing the axe over his head and plant it into the ice. Then the climber will pull up on the axe.
Sound exhilarating? Or maybe a little too difficult? Too scary? Fox Mountains Guides and Climbing School in Pisgah Forest offers one of the most comprehensive training programs in the Southeast. Their expert guides will take you out for a thrilling winter climbing experience. From late November until February, mountain conditions in North Carolina provide the perfect ice structures for the most exciting winter experience around. This may sound completely terrifying, but those who have fallen under the spell of the sport swear that it’s closer to meditation: after a stressful day at work, nothing is more satisfying than plunging an axe into ice.
Fox Mountain Climbing School provides a basic course that covers proper gear, nutrition, safety and technique. This basic course is accessible even to those who have never tried any climbing at all. Once you have learned the basics, they offer more advanced courses. These classes are open to individuals, groups and families ages 13 and up.
When you are fully trained, you can hit the frozen falls of North Carolina with confidence any time you wish, but it’s always recommended that you go with an expert guide, which Fox Mountain has readily available. And if you fall in love with ice climbing, Fox Mountain Climbing Schools also offers guide training and certification.
added: December 28, 2008
updated: February 22, 2012