Monday, January 25, 2010

Will Gadd's Ice Climbing Gems

Canadian climber Will Gadd recently climbed ice for 24 hours to raise money for a charity. On his blog he has posted some reflections on his experience with regards to training, nutrition, equipment, etc. He posted this the other day, and better words on basic ice climbing technique, movement and volume could not be written.

"The basic move of ice climbing is a staggered hands low-weight pull-up with the balance of your weight in a basic air squat. Feet at the same level (this is the most common mistake in ice climbing--your feet should always be at very close to the same level), hike feet up with straight arms, push up with legs, place high tool, repeat to the top. Feet always at the same level, tools never at the same level, twice as many foot placements at least as tool placements..."

"I learned a lot about ice climbing fast and efficiently through all of these thousands and thousands of feet. When you're doing huge volumes of ice little differences in movement patterns add up quickly. I developed huge calluses on my little fingers from hanging onto the Cobras and new Fusions. I learned so much about dynamic movement on ice, momentum, and a subtle hip push very similar to the finish of a good squat that, when combined, really helped a tremendous amount. I've now been ice climbing for over 25 years off and on, and perhaps the most important thing I've learned is that being a good ice climber is all about mileage on ice."

In the book Outliers, Malcom Gladwell states that it take 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in something. That is a lot of ice climbing. Focusing on efficient body movement is often overlooked when ice climbing because the climber is separated form the ice element by crampons and ice tools, not to mention the gloves, heavy boots (when compared to rock shoes) and layers of warm clothing. All this leads to getting disengaged from feeling good climbing movement when on ice.

Climbing is movement and when you see someone move fluidly over ice instead of the wooden, Frankenstein style, you know that they have gone along way into putting in their 10,000 hours.

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