One of the important questions I am asked is “How do you recommend dressing when you go Ice climbing?” A crucial question that can never be satisfied with a single answer or some magic solution. There are hundreds of blogs on the latest and the greatest systems, leaving me to filter thru who’s selling what and why. And the old rules still hold true, the more you spend the better the Quality and Guarantees….usually. Remember to go to Down Wind Sports in Marquette and Houghton, Michigan for Quality service and outdoor products.
Before I touch on the basics of what to wear I want to talk about how to wear. I want to discuss my observations and interpretations of cold weather comfort. I have the great fortune of being able to climb with some real stud, college student, climbers. On our last trip I planned ahead, arrived at parking lot before my partners and snowshoed in ahead with our gear. Lake Superior shoreline, 10 degrees, whiteout flurries, I only wore a compression under layer and a shell jacket, walking in slow and steady, stopping after uphill sections to breathe and smile. I closely estimate just under 2 miles in 1hr 20min. Once at the climb I pulled off shell, unpacked my pack, allowing my compression top to air off for 5-10 min then put on a polypro base layer, a polyester hoodie and put the moist shell back on. Minutes later in came the athletes, they were running late so they came in hot. One climber I think was actually frothing at the mouth like a stallion, but both where notably moist. I am sure they covered the hike in less than 1 hr. beating me by 20 min easy. After a quick Top set we all rappelled to the base of the fall and got nice and cozy for a long afternoon of crushing. Good Times! The point of this over worded slam on these animals who kicked my @#$ all day is... OK besides that I’m jealous. Thru out the day I watched the stallion change in and out of every piece of clothes he brought, and believe me he had the very good stuff. While our 3rd pointed out that all I was wearing was my hoodie, I did occasionally put my shell back on we were 20 yds. from the shoreline, but never pulled out my puffy. Interpretation, because I was dryer I stayed warmer all day .
In conclusion, coming out I left my top layers on with shell and boogied out, taking 55min on the same hike. I got to my car frothing, more like a lactose intolerant geriatric froth than your stallion froth but soaking wet none the less. Before my 2hr drive home (the dangerous part of the weekend!), I dropped trou and replaced my moist cover layers. One hour later I stopped to get gas, while pumping I became so chilled my kidneys started shaking, I THOUGHT I WAS GONNA DIE !, Ok maybe not that bad. But almost. So because I pushed myself to super sweat I soaked my base and now would remain chilled until dry.
So what do I wear, layers, just like everyone else. I focus more on materials than brand names, I constantly cruise the thrift and resale shops...Shout out to the crews at Goodwill... but when in doubt spend the cash, expense and quality go hand in hand. Random tips include don’t put on boots until the parking lot, Hydrate don’t over-hydrate, Don’t “celebrate” the night before, Power up with an easy digesting protein meals it will allow for more circulation to reach your extremities if not working on digestion, and finally drive to the climb with your windows cracked, acclimate.
See you on the Ice,