With hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest, more than forty 4,000 “footers” to hike, plenty of mountains to ski down and rocks to scale, it’s no wonder Mt Washington Valley attracts those in search of the “vertical thrill”. It’s the terrain, specialized outfitters and guides and two recognized ice climbing schools that have given the Valley its reputation as one of the premier vacation destinations for outdoor adventure, especially for ice and rock climbing. Situated perfectly amidst the White Mountains, with plenty of accessible ledges and climbs, there are opportunities for any thrill-seeker of any ability to take their ice climbing experience to the next level or merely give this dynamic sport a try.
The Mt. Washington Valley is home to three outdoor adventure centers and climbling schools which means there are also many experienced ice climbing guides whoknow the terrain in the Valley well. Booking a guide experience is a great way to learn of new spots to climb, take in the views from a different perspective, hone in your own ice climbing skills and make new friends. Between Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School and International Mountain Climbing School, both in North Conway, NH and Northeast Mountaineering in Bartlett, NH there is a wide variety of adventure and experiences for ice climbers in the Mt. Washington Valley.
Because all of the Mt. Washington Valley climbing schools are located in the home of the tallest peak, Mount Washington, iceclimbers here areexposed to a wide variety of weather and terrain. This allows for truly unique climbing opportunities. Whether you decide to scale some of the valley’s infamous ledges or tackle the “mother mountain,” Mount Washington, a guide service or climbing school are the way to go for those new to the sport.
If a day climb or more personalized ice climbing demo or clinic is what you’re looking for, all three climbing schools have a wide array of in-depth and comprehensive guide and lesson options.
Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) offers group climbs and private classes. Private, guided climbs are great for those that are looking to polish their skills and are looking to gain confidence in navigating a variety of ice climbing terrain. Share what you arelooking to learn and the guides will customize your needs to the structure of the class. A private climb also allows you to climb at your own ability rather than joining a group who may have multiple participants with different degree of skill levels. Pricing is determined on the length of the class and how many people are in your private climb group. Call 800-310-4504 to reserve your spot.
If you’re ready for the challenge and comradery of a group excursion, Eastern Mountain Sports also offers courses such as “Winter Climbing 101,” “Mt. Washington Ascent” and “Accelerated Mountaineering.” During the “Mt. Washington Ascent” course you will endure fast winds, cold temperatures, and a portion of the climb that takes place eight miles above tree line. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who is excited by the challenge of the elements, this clinic is right up your alley. You’ll employ all mountaineering skills used for ice climbing and hiking for this challenging, but fun climb. The cost of this program is $150 and includes no more than four people within your group.
Accelerated Mountaineering is one of EMS’ most popular courses. It is a three-day intensive that prepares you for even bigger and challenging hikes throughout the country. The Winter Climbing 101 course begins with the basics of hiking above treeline with crampons and an ice axe. On day two, you will apply the skills you learned on your first day on a moderately angled snow and ice route. Finally, on day three, you’ll put everything you’ve learned to the test with a thrilling summit attempt of Mt. Washington. Cost is $420 per person and lodging is not included. To book any of these programs or for more information, call 800-310-4504.
International Mountain Climbing School (IMCS) is a world-renowned outdoor adventure school, offering guide services and programs to beginners and advanced climbers alike of all ages and abilities. The climbing programs will provide you with the knowledge to move efficiently over varied terrain evaluate future partners and select appropriate climbs. Choose from an array of programs from private climbs to introductory courses, which will help you focus on the strengths you wish to work on and gain confidence or put your skills to the test with more comprehensive climbs.
International Mountain Climbing School’s (IMCS) more advanced programming include the “Vertical Ice Climbing Skills,” where more advanced ice climbers will tackle a variety of different types of steep ice and attempt a multi-pitch climb.
For advanced ice climbers, the “Ice Climbing Leader Course” offers a three-day training in leading a group on a technical, physical and mental level. Day one covers advanced anchor & belay systems, racking of gear, rope management, and route finding while on a multi-pitch climb. You will end the day with a lead while top-roped and set up your own descent. Day two will build upon on what you learned from the day prior with leading on top-rope with the possibility of leading your own climb. Day three will consist of more top-rope leading, setting your own descent and formal instruction on ice self-rescue systems. Climbers will come away from this course with a better understanding of the risks involved and the technical skills required to lead-climb waterfall ice.
For more guide and program options call the International Mountain Climbing School at 603-356-7064 and reserve your class. Rates vary depending on the program and number of people in your group. Guest services will work with you to customize a program that works for your interest areas, skill level and budget.
IMCS also rents high quality plastic boots, crampons, ice axes, winter clothing, and camping gear for all your mountaineering, hiking, and camping needs. In addition, avalanche transceivers are also for rent. Be sure to make reservations early for any type of equipment you may require during busy vacation periods and weekends. Finally, at it’s headquarters in the Interational Mountain Equipment retail location, climbers will find a huge consignment basement filled with used equipment at bargain prices. From ice axes to climbing apparel, tents, backpacks, and technical gear, you’ll find it used in the consignment shop at bargain prices.
Northeast Mountaineering (NEM) prides itself on providing much more than just good views and a challenge during their guided trips. The guides at Northeast also bring a sense of friendship and self-confidence with a focus on team building to each of the experiences NEM provides. Operating out of a bunkhouse, with lodging options available in Bartlett, NH, you can choose from beginner courses such as “Ice Climbing 101” or more advanced courses including three-day climbing excursions.
Gather friends and family to try out the “Ice Climbing 101” program where you will safely try the sport of ice climbing on some real ice cliffs. Depending on your skill level and goals for the course, the NEM guides will choose a climb at one of a number of local cliffs to help you reach your goals for that day. The guides will also show you how we set up an anchor and how to belay throughout the course of the climb.
With the more advanced, three-day course you will begin with a full day of top-rope ice climbing on a local cliff, combined with learning proper climbing communication skills. Day two will build off the prior days techniques and add technical skills such as anchor construction, rope knotting and rappelling as well as learning more on different types of gear and protection. Day three culminates in a full day of multi-pitch climbing using all of the skills that day one and day two taught you. Rentals are available through Northeast Mountaineering and advanced reservation is appreciated. Call 978-413-4433 for full program details and rates.
Beyond the climbing schools and guide services and the great climbs within easy reach in Mt Washington Valley, climbers are also attracted to the region by the number of outfitters offering not only the gear but the expertise in climbing. Beyond Eastern Mountain Sports and International Mountain Climbing School (IMCS), both in North Conway, you’ll also find Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale. This store also serves as a manufacturing headquarters for its own label of apparel for climbers and outdoor adventure seekers. From hard-wear to climbing/kermantle rope and plenty of fleece clothing, you’ll find it at Ragged Mountain Equipment, EMS and IMCS. There are few other places in the country that offer as many options for gear, instruction and expert advice – not to mention companionship – for ice climbers.
No matter what your skill level or the type of adventure you are seeking, Northeast Mountaineering, Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School and International Mountain Climbing School all provide personalized experiences to help you enjoy all that the Mt. Washington Valley offers when it comes to ice climbing. Enjoy the comradery and expertise of the guides, while you go on an adventure that takes you to new heights.