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How to climb ice

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If you’ve ever tried to climb ice you know it can be difficult. But with a few key techniques, you can climb like an ice monkey, cruising glass curtains like you were born to do it.

Professional climber and climbing coach Marcus Garcia shows us a few tricks of the trade, with tips on how to swing your ice axe, kick your feet and position your body on the ice.

1) Accurately place your tools

Garcia says to look where you next swing is going, and to watch for things that can get in the way.

“Look for a tool placement,” he says. “With swinging, you gotta watch the bulges for your elbows and hands.”

With practice, the swing becomes a three-part effort, starting with a primary swing at the shoulder, following through with the elbow and finishing with a delicate flick, or snap of the wrist.

2) Find your feet and stand on them

“Always watch your feet,” Garcia says. As you work your feet up, your hips will come out from the ice. Once you have good foot placement, stand up and bring your hips back in. “Sometimes you’ve got to come out and look around,” Garcia said. Then find your next tool placement. If you have good form, this forms a triangle.

3) The triangle

The triangle position is a stable, relaxed position for an ice climber. It’s a good rest, a solid place to take a breath and figure out what’s next.

With one tool placed high and centered, work to position your feet at an even height, roughly shoulder width apart. This creates a three-point shape of stability. Now, quit freaking out, swing your next tool and repeat.

Ideally, all movements — placing tools and finding feet — are all done with reforming the triangle in mind.

After you do find a good foot placement, a delicate kick, often just powered by the weight of your leg, will help you sink the points of your crampons into the ice. Dropping your heel will engage your secondary points and save your calves.

These fundamental basics will have you topping out in no time.

Just don’t forget to breathe.

Contact editor Brandon Mathis, bmathis@bcimedia.com or 970-375-4576

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