Few Utah athletes have anything but disdain for the inversion, the thick smog that robs any kind of enjoyment from running and biking in the Salt Lake valley during the winter.
To Tyson Bradley, however, the inversion is perfect: a necessary evil for keeping the 100-foot sheer-ice formations he traverses in good climbing shape.
"It locks cold air into the valleys, and all the ice formations are at a lower altitude in Provo Canyon and in the Little Cottonwood Canyon," Bradley says.
Bradley, a lead ice climbing guide for Utah Mountain Adventures, said the ice has been in "excellent condition," perfect for guiding ice climbers of all types and experience levels to take on the wintery equivalent of rock climbing.
With Utah Mountain Adventures guiding, rookie climbers can learn proper tool use and how to maximize stability and traction, while experienced climbers can learn how to take their technique to the next level to mix in more difficult ice traversing with mountaineering and back-country skiing.
There are some veterans that want a guide to take on the "sharp end of the ice" while they follow behind and others that just want to smash sharp tools into an ice shelf with reckless abandon.
"There are a few people just interested in the novelty of the water ice climbing. They see it as a very adventurous, extreme, unusual type of thing," Bradley said.
Dan Christopherson said about 100 people (including volunteers) showed up last weekend to the inaugural Bridal Veil Falls Ice Fest, which he directed. The festival offered climbing clinics on the "Stairway to Heaven" formation in Provo Canyon along with climbing presentations at Utah Valley University.
Christopherson, who was introduced to ice climbing 13 years ago, said he’s come across numerous experienced rock climbers, canyoneers and mountaineers that say ice climbing is "the coolest thing they’ve ever done."
The ice climbing season typically lasts from mid-December to mid-February, but can stretch as late as mid-March if conditions are ideal. Prices for Utah Mountain Adventures guiding can range from $180 to $350 for one person depending on the length and difficulty of the class.
Christopherson’s company, 12 Finger Outdoor Adventure, offers instruction ranging from $159 for beginner’s classes to $229 classes on learning how to lead an ice climb, with custom and private classes available.
Christopherson said those who are skeptical of the sport — believing ice climbing may be too dangerous or difficult — just need to give it a chance.
"It’s almost something you have to show to somebody, whether it’s video or photos or getting them out to see how it works," he said. "If they do that, 99 percent of the time, people want to engage."
"It’s not as cold as you’d think," Bradley added. "It’s pretty darn fun. The feeling of getting a good stick with the ice tool is kind of a gas."
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