January is here, so where is the snow? Last winter’s ample snowfall raised the hopes of folks who like to stay active outdoors year-round: Perhaps winters in the mid-Hudson might yet revert to their snowy status of yore, after a decade of global warming manifesting as next-to-no decent base for local cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. But so far, it’s looking like last year was just a fluke and a tease.
But where there is cold and no snow, at least ice may be found. Since icy ground is not very hiker-friendly, the alternative for outdoorsy types is to start looking upwards at the spectacular banks of icicles that reliably bespangle our cliff faces and waterfalls this time of year. If we can’t count on anything to ski upon, maybe it’s finally time to learn to ice-climb.
To the rescue comes the 14th annual Catskill Ice Festival, presented by the Rosendale-based guide service Alpine Endeavors, local climbing outfitter Rock & Snow in New Paltz, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and some of the top manufacturers of technical outdoor gear: Black Diamond, Petzl, La Sportiva, Outdoor Research and Rab. The adventure takes place over the weekend of January 20 through 23, with free indoor presentations and slideshows at Rock & Snow in the evenings and intensive clinics in ice-climbing skills and techniques at various locations in the daytime at $150 per event. The student-to-guide ratio is very low – 4:1 at most – so you can be sure that you’ll get your money’s worth out of these hands-on (and feet-on) workshops.
You don’t need to be a rock climber already to try out ice-climbing, although it would certainly help. Newbies should set their sights on Saturday’s “Basic Ice Movement” clinic, which is limited to 12 participants. As with all the workshops, all necessary equipment for the day will be provided. Those who have climbed some ice before can hone their skills at Sunday’s “Intermediate Ice Movement” clinic.
For more advanced participants, more challenging workshops include “Steep Ice Techniques” on Saturday and two on Sunday: “Mixed Climbs & Dry Tooling,” which will teach you how to cope with pitches that are only partially ice-covered, and “Glacial Travel & Crevasse Rescue,” which could quite literally save your life or that of a member of your glacier-trekking party if you’re into serious adventure travel.
The weekend will be bookended with two full-day expeditions led by expert ice-climbers. Friday, January 20 will feature a “Catskill Tour” in which a group of up to eight (plus four guides) will climb at a few locations in the same day: Asbestos Wall or Moore’s Bridge, Stony Clove and/or the Devil’s Kitchen, depending on conditions. And on Monday, January 23, hardy souls can experience a multi-pitch challenge at “Backcountry Day in the Ravines,” described as “Bushwhack in, climb up, rappel down, bushwhack out.” This group is also limited to a maximum of eight paid participants led by four guides.
If these clinics and tours whet your taste for future icy expeditions, you might also want to try out a variety of the demo equipment that will be provided. Rock & Snow will offer 15 percent off the regular price of ice gear and apparel for all Ice Festival registrants from the time they sign up through the end of the event.
To register, visit https://alpineendeavors.com/logistics/registration.html or stop in at Rock & Snow at 44 Main Street in New Paltz. For more details about the Ice Festival, visit
https://alpineendeavors.com/schedule_events/catskill_icefestival.html, or call Alpine Endeavors at (845) 658-3094.