Ice Climbing For The First Time

Breaking the Ice: My First Ice Climb

They say there’s a first time for everything…So there I was, hanging from the face of an ice covered cliff in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with nothing but a few points of metal (and some rope) keeping me from plummeting to the bottom.

Frozen Frankenstein Cliff
Photo: Cait Bourgault

You may be wondering just how does one find themselves hanging from the face of an ice cover cliff in the White Mountains of New Hampshire?

Well, in the midst of what I can only assume is some sort of midlife crisis I decided to give ice climbing a try. Up until recently I had thought ice climbing, while looking pretty cool was something only people a little more adventurous (and a lot more crazy) than I was would do. You see, over the 51 years I’ve been on this planet I’ve developed a very healthy sense of self preservation, so up until now the thought of climbing a frozen wall of ice had be consciously left off of my “bucket list.”

Then the guys at Northeast Mountaineering, for whom I’m a brand ambassador, reached out to see if I along with a group other fellow ambassadors to see if we’d like to give ice climbing a try. With surprisingly little hesitation, I was all for it.

Bright and early on the day of our climb we met at Northeast Mountaineering’s base of operations, The Bunkhouse in Glen, NH. Here we would get outfitted with the gear we would need for the day’s adventure; boots, crampons, helmets, and ice tools. Then it was off to Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch for a day of climbing.

Geared to go
Photo: Cait Bourgault

Once we arrived at the cliffs, our guides Brett and Ben gave us a thorough safety briefing as well as demonstrating the proper techniques for using crampons and the ice tools we would be using to claw our way up the ice. They also ensured we were properly tied in when climbing.

Tools of the trade

Soon after it was time to tie onto the rope and get ready for my fist climb.

Don’t look down!

Seeing other people do it is one thing, but when it came time for me to give it a try it was hard to imagine that the two thin front points on each crampon attached to my mountaineering boots and the equally narrow point on the ice tool I held in each hand would support my 230 lbs on the near vertical ice. Much to my surprise they did, and it took little time before I gained confidence in my foot placement and the fact that they would indeed hold.

Cait on belay

Of course being roped in helped. Having the climbing rope tied to my harness, passing up through a secure anchor at the top then back to the bottom where the other end was being controlled by an experienced person on belay, taking up and playing out slack as needed, I felt confident that I couldn’t really go anywhere if I slipped. This alleviated any fear I may have had about falling, enabling me to concentrate on foot and tool placement and getting to the top.

Topping out the first time was a rush! Looking back down to see how far I had climbed was a thrill I won’t soon forget.

Thanks to the great people at Northeast Mountaineering, as well as the other new climbers I was with that day. You all made my first time hanging from an ice covered cliff in the White Mountains something I will remember for a very long time.

Creating memories with the crew
Photo: Cait Bourgault

I can’t wait to do it again!!

About The Author

Jeff Sinon

Jeff is a nature, landscape, and wildlife photographer based in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Specializing in creating compelling images of the natural world, captured in dramatic weather and light. Whether it’s the first kiss of sunlight to hit the rugged granite of the seacoast, or atop a frigid, windswept mountain summit bathed in the pink warmth of alpenglow, through his images he wishes to share these fleeting, often magical moments.


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