If you’ve exhausted adrenaline rushes on resort slopes, ice climbing and backcountry adventures may be for you.
Lead guide Tyson Bradley of Utah Mountain Adventures (UMA) in Salt Lake City has been teaching, guiding, and enjoying Wasatch peaks and valleys the past 30 winters.
“Ice climbing is a lot like rock climbing. We teach tying in, harness setup, belaying, terminology, and most importantly…safety. Primarily climbers use the feet since our legs are stronger than our arms.”
Equipment includes ice screws and anchors, crampons (cleats), and axes. Guides instruct how to read ice and how to search for solid placement of ice tools. “Keep swinging until you get a deeper sounding thud if your tool doesn’t stick.” Most clients already own the waterproof layers necessary for ice climbing, says Tyson. Water flows during climbs, and it’s important to stay dry and warm.
Helmets, helping to avoid head injury, are also critical. A belayer will often stand to the side to avoid ice falling from fall lines of climbers above.
UMA has two types of clinics. The entry-level Ice Climbing Clinic is usually held on the lower curtain of Bridal Veil Fall’s “Stairway to Heaven” in Provo Canyon mid-December through February. No previous experience is necessary, but Tyson says good aerobic fitness helps.
The second clinic is Multi-pitch Ice Climbing, tackling more difficult pitches of the Stairway and the moderately difficult “Great White Icicle” in Little Cottonwood Canyon mid- December through February.
A backcountry venture on skis or split snowboards is another exciting option offered by UMA. Nylon adhesive skins are used on uphill stretches for access to pristine, untouched slopes. “Backcountry skiing is the largest part of our business,” acknowledges Tyson.
The rapidly growing sport has developed as skiers and boarders look beyond resort boundaries. Avalanche awareness and precautions are of paramount importance in backcountry mountaineering and in all winter pursuits.
UMA requires participants be fit (heart, lungs, legs) and ready to climb high to reach the steep, more difficult terrain. Downhill boots may be used by backcountry adventurers because the bindings release on uphill stretches. Clients in this genre need proficiency on ungroomed, intermediate (blue) runs.
“We are the mecca for backcountry enthusiasts: three wilderness areas and thousands of acres of forest service land. We don’t need more chairlifts!” opines this Salt Lake City resident and experienced guide in Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and Nepal.
UMA has an impressive staff of highly qualified guides for clinics, group and private sessions. Gear may be rented at Black Diamond in SLC 801-278- 0233 or at the University Of Utah Outdoor Rec Program 801-581-8516.
Warm temperatures and rain may cause dangerous conditions. Check with the company before finalizing your adventures.
Get your winter on!
Utah Mountain Adventures: 2070 E 3900 S, Salt Lake City, Utah, 801-550-3986