Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Kelly Cordes is our guest Trencher today, fielding a question that is at once simple - and surprisingly complex: How do you dress properly for ice climbing? - Ed
Some people don’t like winter climbing because, surprise surprise, it’s cold. But it’s also beautiful – the stillness, the ever-changing medium, the winter light. Fun only in retrospect (Type II fun)? Not necessarily. The trick, or one of them, is to keep your body temperature just right. But you don’t want to inhibit mobility, since trying to climb while bundled-up like Ralphie from A Christmas Story isn’t much fun, either.
Here’s one simple pointer: wear an extra layer in your core, or torso. I call it my “+1 Core” layer. We’ve long known, courtesy of physiologists and backed by our own experiences, that when push comes to shove our bodies prioritize shunting warm blood away from our extremities and toward our more vital areas. By wearing an extra layer in your torso to keep key areas toasty, you get serious bang for your buck warmth-wise, while maintaining arm mobility. It’s a similar concept to that old saying from granny: if your toes are cold, put a hat on (surely the reason all shirtless bouldering bros wear a beanie). I, and many other climbers, believe that this whole “core warmth” thing helps me get away with wearing thinner, more dexterous gloves while winter climbing – nothing is worse than fumbling with gear in big gloves. Well, frozen fingers are worse, but that’s kind of my point, too. Like granny says.
[Tommy Caldwell misunderstands the vest concept. Photo: Kelly Cordes]