Ice Climbing in the Catskills - Buttermilk Falls WI3 - Six Pitches - March 2008


One of my rock climbing partners, Mike, said he liked to ice climb. I had always wanted to try ice climbing so we planned to try ice climbing in locally in PA with a guide from EMS. Unfortunately the ice never came in so we were forced to travel up to the Catskills to find some ice. And find some ice we did. Buttermilk Falls turned out to be in outstanding condition and we climbed all six pitches of it. I discovered that ice climbing is a different enough skill set from mountaineering or rock climbing to where I just wasn't very good at it. I had poor axe technique and even poorer foot work. My arms were so tired near the top that they were almost useless.

The truly epic part of the day though was the approach in and out. The falls were a significant bushwhack to get to the base. Then on the way out, rather than rappel down the route we decided to bushwhack along the ridge and find a different way back. The way out turned into an adventure of getting trapped just above a huge steep mud slope and having to traverse above it. Then narrowly avoiding getting crushed by a school bus size chunk of ice that broke off of the falls we were about to travel underneath.

All in all vertical waterfall ice climbing was fun to try but is not really my cup of tea. Some lower angle stuff like they have in the easier gullies on Mt Washington might be more fun.


Our guide leads the 1st pitch Note the nice wide stance with his feet
Damn this ice is hard and the chips fly up in your face This is easier when I hook the holes you already made
The river was still running underneath the ice Using the holes again
Note my incredibly poor foot position Good times
Looking a little lacsidaisical Now I'm looking the best I did all day
Mike seems to be enjoying himself No point in giving the guide a belay if he's not going to put in any pro
If you put your axe in wet mossy mud, is that considered dry tooling? Mike showing moderately better form
Oh Mike, don't crampon the rope! I dropped one of my axes while climbing this pitch
Our guide getting it Mike was a little too tall for the mini cave
If its stuck in the ice does that count as dropping it? This was by far the hardest pitch of the day


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