ice climbing - heide on stairway to heavenWhen you can't spend all winter swimming below waterfalls in Honduras and Mexico, you make do.  You climb them frozen in Utah.

Sound crazy? Yeah, well there are people who think it sounds even crazier to sit inside and do nothing for the cold months of the year. And no words will ever fully explain the sheer, surprising beauty of standing on a curtain of crystal ice. It's as if time stood still and let you crawl up a moving cascade. It's as if you could hold back time and tide. It's a beautiful, inspiring, unforgettable experience. It's also the only way up many walls with no natural weaknesses. You get the summertime pleasure of staring at the sheer rock and knowing that you've been there.

Just be sure you KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING before you go!   For starters, read up on ice climbing safety tips at

ice climb - shaun front points heide belays
Heide belays & awaits her turn to climb early winter ice on Stairway to Heaven's skirt.

ice climbing - lana
Lana sets her crampons in plastic, keeping her arms straight and hanging in the leashes to conserve arm strength.

ice climb - chris barksdale
Chris sinks a tool while front pointing up the flow.

ice girl heide december 13, 2003



Plastic: ice soft enough to readily accept picks and crampons.  Tools land with a solid, dampened thwack and stick solid with minimal dinner plating.

Dinner Plate: cold ice, or ice with lots of air trapped inside, tends to shatter and break off in saucer-like plates when struck. Climbers often must chip away to get down to more solid ice.

Pitch: either one length of rope or the space between any two anchor points where climbers belay and then either descend or proceed upward.

Anchor: point at which the belay is attached to the wall, either with bolts drilled into rock or ice screws and other devices secured in the ice.

Tool: the ice axe, which holds the pick and either a hammer or adze.

Leash: the straps connecting a tool to the climber's wrist.  Holding on all the way up a route without them would be impossible (for most climbers) and dangerous (for anyone below as well as the climber).

Front Point: Using the front points (and perhaps secondary points) of your crampons for traction on ice while other points make no contact.

Crampons: the pointy things strapped to your feet.

Adze: a tiny shovel-like thing attached to the tool head, opposite the pick, and interchangeable with a hammer. NEVER pause with this aimed anywhere near your eyes! If the tool pops, you're blind.

Pick: the pointy thing on the end of your tool.

Hammer: a hammer attached to the tool head, opposite the pick, and interchangeable with an adze.

Most photos from Stairway to Heaven, the tallest continuous vertical ice climb in North America, just down canyon from Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon, Utah.

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