International Man of Mystery...

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I grew up in the Boston area and lived there until my junior year in high school when I attended the Mountain School, a semester program run by Milton Academy in Vershire, VT. I then attended Colby College in Waterville, ME. During my time at Colby I studied anthropology, spent a semester in Northeast India, and became fluent in Nepali. Before I became a guide I earned my black belt in kenpo karate and taught karate for 6 years. I began guiding in college on the rocky coast of ME with Acadia Mountain Guides and on ice at the International Mountain Climbing School in NH. After graduating I took to the highway and drove from ME to WA for the big mountains and glaciers. I spend my winters in lovely Ouray, CO guiding in the famous ice park. I am currently working towards becoming a certified guide through the American Mountain Guides Association. I live, work and play in the hills and on the rocks. On the rocks both literally and, well, with ice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ice Technique

I love to guide because I love to teach. I love to climb to but I find that guiding is as much about teaching and coaching as it is about climbing. Ice climbing is especially fun to teach because the technique is relatively specific. As a guide I strive to build a progression into each day. Over the course of the day I get to watch the technique develop. Climbers go from looking like vertical Bambi on ice to graceful solid climbers, often in one day!

Ice climbing involves negotiating between two concepts. One is the triangle position where the climber's highest tool is the apex of the triangle and the feet form a solid base. However, vertical ice is has features, subtle concavities where blobs, pillars, and candles fuse together. Swinging and kicking into these features makes for those wonderful one swing sticks, it also minimizes exploding ice by utilizing the structurally strongest parts of the ice. To see this in action check out the new Ouray Ice Climbing video to the left.

Negotiating between these two ideas can be tricky. The best tool placements might not line up with your triangle, the route might not go straight up. Usually the best way to reconcile these sometimes conflicting ideas is to dance your feet around a lot while you climb. If your next swing is out to the right, move your feet to the right so you maintain that triangle. Try to make it feel fluid, more like rock climbing. To practice try climbing someplace really beaten out, but steep, without kicking or swinging. This will force you to explore the movement of ice climbing a bit more rather than hacking your way up a climb.

Have fun and be safe!

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