When you think of ice climbing, the Southeast may not come to mind, but the mountains of western North Carolina can actually be a wonderful place to start into this adrenaline-filled winter sport.
Look for several cold days of below freezing nights and near or below freezing days in the Brevard area and surrounding mountains, and you have excellent conditions for ice climbing.
Prior rock or ice climbing experience is not needed to try ice climbing with a climbing guide, who can provide you with the fundamental equipment and basic instruction in the field.
Ice climbing requires warm clothing and outerwear that allows you to move easily, yet wicks well to regulate your body temperature. While ice climbing, you are likely to heat up quickly, so layering your clothing gives you the most versatility to react to changing weather conditions and body temperature. When belaying, you may cool down quickly, so you will want to add layers while on the ground.
The most basic equipment for ice climbing involves a climbing harness, helmet, rope, belay device, ice axes, ice boots, and crampons. The leader or guide will most likely need to use ice screws to secure the rope or provide directionals for top-roping.
Local gear shops are an excellent resource for ice climbing equipment, current local conditions and information on where to climb. Around Brevard, North Carolina, ice climbers head to 215, Pisgah National Forest, Lake Toxaway, Dupont State Forest and Chimney Rock State Park to hit the ice when conditions are ideal.
Ice climbing gives the climber the opportunity to enjoy the mountains in a whole new setting. It can be truly surreal to work your way to the top of an ice climb or frozen waterfall, and it is truly an unforgettable experience.
If you get a taste of ice climbing and thirst for more, several towns across the Rockies, like Ouray, Colorado, have excellent ice climbing festivals, where you could easily delve deeper into the sport.
Most importantly, safety is paramount when ice climbing. Climb with experienced ice climbers and have fun!