Local Ice Climbing Competition – Held Indoors
Unique competition involves specialized components
ANCHORAGE – When you think about ice climbing, you don’t generally think about it being indoors, but tomorrow the two will come together in Alaska’s first dry tool climbing competition.
The number of ice climbers in Alaska is growing, especially with so many convenient places to climb, including along the Seward Highway, Hunter Creek, and also Valdez and Homer.
The Alaska Ice Climbing Festival has a unique competition this year, and surprisingly, it doesn’t involve ice.
“It's a little bit like ice climbing and a little bit like rock climbing,” said Matt Szundy, the organizer of the festival.
Ice climbing and indoors aren’t generally two words used together. “It's different from what climbers have been seen before," Szundy said.
Thanks to an innovative piece of plastic and wax, ice climbers will compete Friday in Alaska’s first indoor ice-climbing or “dry tool” competition.
“These holds are a little different; they’re sort of a plastic sheeting over rubber and wax underneath it, so the idea is that you can actually stick your tool in there and totally trust it,” said Szundy.
And when it comes to conquering the great indoors, having the right footwear is a good start - "Which are sticky rubber so they'll be able to use the climbing hold that are normally used in the indoor gym as opposed to boots and clamp-ons,” Siri Moss, owner of Alaska Rock Gym, said.
Up to 30 climbers will be competing here on Friday. The goal: to make the furthest progress up the wall in the shortest amount of time.
“Each one of these holds has a rating, a number on them so the further up you get the more points you get,” Szundy said.
Even for the world’s best ice climbers, sometimes finding the right outdoor venue can be challenging. “There's not ice everywhere, but there's rock walls everywhere, so we can climb on these walls and get strong and fit,” said Will Gadd, a Canadian professional climber.
Gadd is in Anchorage to help build the specially designed wall the climbers will compete on, and give advice to budding climbers. “And hopefully teach them some rules to keep safe with and have a good time and have a long career in the mountains,” Gadd added.
And you don’t have to be a well-experienced outdoorsperson to have fun. The earlier you start practicing, the better.
"Children as young as two years old or around 25 pounds can climb as long as they can be safely put in a full body harness,” Moss said.
By starting indoors, it could be these children, one day, who summit new challenges in the climbing world.
Gadd will be doing ice-climbing clinics on Saturday. Find the details here.