Provider: REI Adventures
Length: Two days
Price: from $425
Whether you're preparing for a technical climb up a snowy peak like Mt. Rainier or want to take up a new winter sport that's way cooler than snowshoeing or skating and less pedestrian than skiing, learning how to ice climb is an exciting and rewarding endeavor. Best of all, it's not necessary to be a star rock climber or buy expensive technical gear in advance. All you need is some athletic ability, a desire to learn, and a good teacher.
This past winter, Seattle area resident Roger Bischoff, who was training to climb Alaska's ice-bound Denali (Mt. McKinley), took a three-day ice climbing course in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with REI Adventures. "I trust REI Adventures as I've been on other trips with them, and I didn't have much time to plan the trip in advance, so it seemed like a no-brainer to sign up with them," says Bischoff. He also brought along his 14-year-old nephew, Zak, who had no experience with winter mountaineering.
"The group climbing was small so I felt like we had quality time with the guide," says Biscoff. "We had a blast and explored all of the basics. I walked away from the experience with an appreciation of the sport and felt that I learned enough to be more confident if we encountered technical ice on the McKinley route. My nephew had a blast too. He's been asking me when we can go again, saying that I got him hooked on ice climbing."
During REI's course, you'll spend two full days learning how to safely use equipment like ice axes, crampons, and rope systems and how to properly dress, eat, and condition yourself for winter climbing. You'll practice your skills in various locations in the White Mountains, depending on weather conditions, perhaps climbing the frozen waterfalls of Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch or the ice-encased ravines of Mt. Washington, New England's highest peak.
"The White Mountains are pretty spectacular, and in the winter they're just magnificent," says Bischoff. "In all, the experience [of the course in its entirety] was the highlight—doing something I haven't done before with a cool group of folks on a well-organized trip in an amazing landscape."
This trip has openings for its January 16 and February 13 departures. The $425 rate is for REI members; non-members pay $465. If you're not already a member it's worthwhile to get a lifetime membership as it only costs $20. Prices cover accommodations, breakfasts, instruction and guides, all group climbing gear and technical equipment, and permits. Personal cold weather gear, some meals, and transportation to the trip start point in Plymouth, New Hampshire, are extra. Plymouth is about a 65-mile drive from the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire.