Climber, explorer and vagabond for adventure Angela VanWiemeersch takes it all one step at a time.
A former competitive ice skater with a background in fashion, Angela VanWiemeersch was 22 years old when she learned about ice climbing.
“I was hitchhiking through Truckee, California, when a rad guy name Courtney picked me up and told me about Ouray, Colorado, where everybody was supposedly an ice climber,” VanWiemeersch says. “I decided I had to go give it a try. I moved to Ouray with a bag of used ice climbing gear and started loitering around trying to find climbing partners.”
Not only did the sport of ice climbing find VanWiemeersch, it literally picked her up and took her straight to the epicenter of it: Ouray. Her career trajectory in a sport she picked up six years ago affirms her dharma, from her discovery of ice to first ascents everywhere to traveling the world to challenge unclimbed peaks.
A teacher and a student
A new challenge for VanWiemeersch is mentoring a rock climbing prodigy, Sasha DiGiulian. One of the most accomplished rock climbers in the world, DiGiulian was getting into ice, and VanWiemeersch was going to lead the way.
“I learned humility from Sasha,” VanWiemeersch says. “She had no hang-ups about what she could or could not do. She removed herself from any expectations and just focused at the task at hand and gave it her all.”
The partnership nurtured a mutual respect, inspiration and willingness to learn that also revealed her personal growth and progression within all genres of the sport.
“I struggle with that concept in rock climbing,” VanWiemeersch says. “When I can’t climb as hard as I can on ice, sometimes I let it get to me. Sasha let that go from the beginning. She was just climbing to climb, no other reason.”
While VanWiemeersch’s life is always on the go, her adventure itinerary usually sends her back to the Southwest where she is loosely based somewhere between Colorado’s Western Slope, Provo, Utah and Zion National Park in southeast Utah.
And while Zion is on all climber’s tick list, they’re all gone when she shows up.
Ice routes in southern Utah’s Zion National Park were the subject of myth until 2013 when VanWiemeersch and the late Scott Adamson stomped around the desert looking for frozen water.
“We put in such long days, waking up at 4 a.m. over and over, skiing and hiking – sometimes 16 miles for a single climb. But the hard work paid off,” she says.
The trailblazing mission is archived in “Desert Ice” , A Three Strings/ARC’Teryx Production.
“I think that first season we found something like 14 new and giant ice flows, ranging all the way to 600 feet.”
Over the next two years, the two returned with more climbers, establishing more desert ice routes.
“It was the most memorable, beautiful and special climbing experience of my life,” she says.
Winter 2018 and 2019 brings plans to chase new challenges from New England to Central Alaska, plus plans she’ll keep under wraps for now.
So, how does she do it all?
“Just one foot in front of the other,” VanWiemeersch says. “Big goals are hard to envision sometimes because the ambition of them is very daunting. But when you break it down into days, hours or even footsteps, you realize you can do anything, just a little at a time. Perspective is everything.”