What to wear ice climbing
Guest blogger Timothy Lytle from Arc'teryx helps us outfit ourselves for an ice climbing day in ELora, Ontario with ONE AXE Pursuits:
Ice Climbing in Southern Ontario with One Axe Pursuits and Arc’teryx
Ontario offers unique opportunities to try ice climbing through its landscape, locations relatively near to urban centres, and local suppliers and guides who can provide appropriate gear and instruction.
Ice climbing – to those who have experienced it – is perhaps most closely associated with the endless peaks, cliffs and valleys of British Columbia and Alberta. However - Ontario offers some unique opportunities both to learn – and grow – in the sport. Perhaps the best-known locations close to the urban centres of Toronto and Hamilton region are Tiffany Falls and Elora Gorge. Both offer compelling climbs for novices and more advanced climbers alike. Easy and interesting approaches help remind climbers that even though they live near urban centres, that we also live within reach of amazing parks and conservation areas. Elora and Tiffany Falls are both serviced by One Axe Pursuits (https://www.oneaxepursuits.com/) who offer ice climbing trips and instruction geared towards all levels. One Axe has taken the initiative to build their own climbing facility in Elora, offering more reliable opportunities to climb during the unpredictable Southern Ontario winter.
Weather is another unique factor to ice climbing in Ontario. With increasingly mild winters, and without the long sustained deep freezes custom to further north in Ontario or Western Canada, climbers in Ontario need to be prepared for several factors. This can include mild, damp days – or cold, snowy days with wind coming off the local lakes. Proper layering is a must in all conditions.
A light, warm base layer is ideal. Merino wool stays warm while damp, but synthetic dries quickly and wicks moisture. Either is appropriate, but novice climbers may need to experiment with both for optimum comfort. A light synthetic mid-layer – such as an Atom Lt, or Proton LT available from Arc’teryx (https://arcteryx.com/ca/en/) – will offer breathable warmth that dries quickly if it gets damp with sweat or moisture on more demanding days.
Finally - a shell of some sort will help contain warmth, and repel moisture either from rain on damp days, or ice and snow as it falls on climbers. A waterproof Gore-Tex shell such as the Alpha FL, or ‘soft-shell’ (warm and water-resistant, but not waterproof) such as the Gamma MX are ideal. Both are available from Arc’teryx and at local suppliers. Similar principles apply for bottom layers. A light warm base layer, under a soft-shell pant is ideal. Many climbers wear ‘gaiters’ over stiff mountaineering boots to prevent drag from pant legs, and punctures in the material.
Appropriate gloves are essential. Many climbers prefer a flexible light-to-medium glove that offers plenty of dexterity for climbing. Some will keep an extra pair in their coat – warmer and thicker for belaying, or simply to warm their hands. Again some individual experimentation will help determine what is ideal. Different options for gloves – from light to medium/heavy – include the Alpha SL glove, or Venta AR glove are all excellent options.
Most of these options are ideal for actual climbing. Many climbers will own other pieces for the occasions when they are belaying. For most novice climbers it will be enough to focus on appropriate gear for their first climbing experiences. Belaying can require a whole host of other needs and options, and this could be worth covering in another instalment.
For more information on ice climbing or equipment, check the links provided in the article. Arcteryx gear is also available at the following locations:
Toronto Premium Outlets
13850 Steeles Ave West
Arc’teryx Niagara Outlet
300 Taylor Rd. Unit 743
Niagara on the Lake, ON
3401 Dufferin St. Unit 511
339 Queen St. West