Cold as Ice

Ice Climbing Season From Puddles of Ice in MS to Frozen Waterfalls in CO

By: Lee Trebotich

‘Tis the season.  People are gearing up for the winter in all kinds of ways. Whether you are throwing the skis in the truck, putting chains on the tires, polishing off the snowboard, or breaking out the hot cocoa, we all have a similar goal: to get out and play in the snow! My objective is a little different than buying the annual ski pass. Instead of strapping on a snowboard, I’ll be sharpening my ice axes, crampons, and other tools as I gear up for another season of ice climbing. 

Growing up in southern Mississippi, winter was a scarce season. Right after summer came a milder summer, then straight back into summer, with no break in between...though every now and then we were blessed with a cold forecast that whipped through the coast and froze any water that remained exposed. If enough frost gathered overnight, you had a chance to make a stick and rock-filled snowball, (one snowball would take up all the frost, so you had to act quick!). This is what my Mississippi winter memories mostly consisted of. So I found a way to escape the typical southern winters by taking an annual March birthday trip out to Colorado, in particular to Fairplay and Ridgeway. Here, every year, I was blessed with the heavy snows and snow-capped peaks that I had always read and dreamed about. This is how a southern boy fell in love with the ice and snow.

With my tradition of escaping into the Rockies growing more and more established each year, I began to extend my comfort zone by trying new things. One year I decided to take up ice climbing, a sport that I had never dreamed of trying. But growing up in the south, I enjoyed rock climbing, so I decided, “Why not give ice climbing a go?!” As soon as I took my first swing into the ice, it was love at first climb. It was a rush that I had never felt before; the combination of the freezing weather and climbing seemed a marriage too perfect for me. I knew then that I had found my passion for being outside. My trips to Colorado each year extended longer and expanded wider. I was rediscovering this state all over again, but in new views.

This is how I stumbled upon the town of Ouray, Colorado and its magnificent outside gym called the “Ice Park.” My annual trips now thrived on driving deep into the southwest corner of Colorado and exploring its hidden frozen waterfalls, gullies, and ice walls. Here ice climbing was always available due to the Ice Park, and for that I am thankful. I can proudly say that the city of Ouray is the reason I am an ice climber today.

Ever since I took my first swing into the ice more than 15 years ago, I have always tried to find a way to be involved with the climbing community. From climbing all over the United States, I have seen so many opportunities to get involved and to help local climbing communities. Whether you help belay at local festivals or you just feel like learning a new climb, there are so many organizations out there that can help. I am fortunate to have a career where I can mix work and play. I am now able to climb ice worldwide and explore depths to which I never thought about going. To be involved in a career where I can talk travel, climb, and work in one sentence is truly a blessing.

I can proudly say, as the VP of Marketing for Appalachian Gear Company, we are involved! We are a proud sponsor for the Bozeman Ice Festival in Bozeman, Montana, and supporters of the Ouray Ice Festival in none other than Ouray, Colorado. It is a dream come true to be with such an amazing company that cares so much about our environment and how we treat it! As my first duty in marketing, I made sure that we were involved with the climbing community, and I made sure that ice was a priority in that push. So if you are interested in hanging or climbing with some Appalachian Gear athletes, we will be in Bozeman from December 11-15. In Bozeman, a handful of our athletes, including myself, will be leading clinics on all types of climbing techniques in the world class climbing location of Hyalite Canyon. Come join The Herd for some ice climbing fun!

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