Early Season Ice Gear Thoughts

Thank you nature, there’s a chill in the air. Sweaty season is over. I’m putting on a light jacket in the morning and that means ice season is on its way.

What kind of gear should you let dry by a fire after a great day of ice climbing? I asked the Fox Mountain Guides and below is a summary of answers to some questions from a client joining us for the upcoming New Hampshire ice trip.

Leashes,tethers, or nada?

Nada is the most common answer. Leashes are handcuffs. I admit to dropping a tool near my belaying son last year though and plan to get tethers for multi-pitch terrain where a tool loss would be a major problem.

Adzes, hammers, or nothing?

Hammers on both tools. Less fear of severe face lacerations. A hammer to hammer pick setting can be good for the nerves when things get scary on lead. The answers from guides who visit alpine terrain remind us that an adze can be handy for carving out steps,bollards and platforms.

Mono point or dual point?

Dual. Mono points are well liked for the most technical ice but two point crampons were the most frequent answer. Some serious efficiency was mentioned however by using mono points to select already prepared pick holes instead of another tiring kick.

Plastic or leather?

Leather boots provide the right combo of warmth and comfort for most settings. Unless your goal is extreme conditions at extreme altitudes leather boots offer enough warmth and better performance.

Pants or bibs?

Pants. As much as I hate biting wind on the small of my back the feeling of bibs never appealed to me at all. They always seem to ride north when I reach. Go with good soft shell pants unless the weather gets nasty then have your hard shell. The Patagonia guide pants have a wonderful feel. Tuck in a long shirt.

Gloves:Thin and manageable or thick and warm?

The consensus is just in the middle. Lined leather work gloves from Marmot smeared in mink oil are durable and grippy. A couple pair of fleece gloves inside the jacket to switch in and out for warmth at the belay.

Oversized boots with extra socks?

No. Let the quality of the boot provide the warmth. Get them well fitting with your regular high quality medium weight hiking sock. You will walk a while in these after some multi pitch adventures so comfort is important.

Who makes the best boots?

La Sportiva boots are super awesome and were the unanimous choice of the Fox Mountain Guides. I bought otherwise a few years ago because of a killer price and bent the lace hooks during tightening. Look at the Nepal EVO GTX. You can tell they were made with love.

Hope you enjoyed the answers. The first person to send me an email correctly stating which tiny piece of imperative Ice climbing equipment I’m thinking of will receive one by mail.

I hope to see you in New Hampshire where ice screws sink all the way down!



Where’s That Fox?

Congratulations to Karen Peress for correctly identifying The South Face of the Petit Grepon and winning a new Black Diamond X4!!


Coiling a Climbing Rope with Fox Mountain Guide Travis Weil

The White Coast

When you mix the world’s two largest features, the mountains and the sea, you can bet there will be breathtaking views with vast, dramatic landscapes and succulent food to round out the climbing experience.  The Costa Blanca region of Spain didn’t let me down.

If I ignored the setting and just had raw climbing, I would have still had fun. The steep limestone feeds the need for a pump while the larger formations give the enduro day its due. The area is mostly bolted with the longer routes needing supplemental gear. We climbed routes ranging from 3+ to 7a+ (5.6 to 5.12) and only tapped the surface. There is much unclimbed rock in the region for those FA adventure seekers.  Here are a few crags, restaurants, and sites one doesn’t want to miss:

IMG_0282 The Climbing

Penon de lfach: The landmark of the Costa Blanca, this 332m tower perched above the Mediterranean Sea has multi pitch routes ranging from 5+ to 7b (5.10 to 5.12b).  We climbed a 6a+ variation of Via Valencianos, a route with quite a bit of loose rock and polished cruxes but with a view that is among the most spectacular in the world.

Olta:  Fantastic rock quality and bird’s eye views of the Penon de Ifach and Mediterranean Sea make this area a must. The routes tend to be quite technical and range from 5 to 7c. Tai Chi (6b+) was definitely a standout with its thin moves up an aesthetic arête. (photo above)
Forada: For those seeking overhanging sport routes that deliver the pump Spain is known for, the countryside cliff of Forada is the place to go in the Costa Blanca. The north face provides a welcome respite from the sun this time of year, is packed with well-bolted routes up to 8b (5.13d), and is practically a roadside crag, depending on how far you drive down the “road.” Elios (7a+) and Spiderman (7a) were our favorites.


Gandia: This crag is steps from the road, has interesting rock formations, and is well-bolted. Perhaps its only drawback was that it is south facing and therefore quite hot in the 70 degree sun.

Sella: Sella is the largest and most popular crag in the area. Offering everything from dramatic multi pitch climbs to overhanging sport routes up to 8c+, we could have spent weeks here alone. With several crags with short approaches, it was a great choice for our last day, giving us time to get in a few pitches before heading home to pack up.


The Food

The Costa Blanca has food options to satisfy every taste and budget. From Michelin 3 star restaurants to American fast food (yes, I did get a cheeseburger or three), the food will not disappoint.

Quique Dacosta: It’s hard to believe that the little seaside town of Denia would have a Michelin 3 star restaurant that has been called the best in the world by many, but we can attest that it is true. This meal appealed to every sense and can’t be done justice with words or photos. All I can say is if you are looking for the meal of a lifetime, this is it.

Casa Pepa: We would likely have not even found the small village of Ondara had we not heard about Casa Pepa, another Michelin starred restaurant situated among olive and orange groves. The meal here was simple and elegant and would have been the standout had we not gone to Quique.

El Andaluz: You can’t go to Spain and not have paella, tapas, and sangria. We tried several, and after a morning of exploring the Old Town area of Calpe, we found the best of the bunch here. Our waiter actually prohibited us from ordering more tapas lest we spoil the paella, but all of the nine or so plates we had were great, as was the paella.

Calpe dockside: This area at the base of the Penon de Ifach is filled with restaurants that offer fish fresh off the boats and is great if you are looking for simply prepared FRESH seafood. You probably can’t go wrong with any of them as we found after the restaurant we tried to eat at on three separate occasions was closed. After a feast of sole, lobster, prawns, pulpo, and a bottle of albarino, you can stroll the dock and see the day’s catch being unloaded.

The Rest

Perhaps one of best things about this area is the abundance of things to do on rest days (or after climbing if you’re not too beat). The entire region has beautiful beaches with aquamarine waters. We particularly enjoyed one in Calpe with views of the Penon de Ifach. You could also get lost for days wandering the streets of the many towns in the area, ducking in and out of alleyways dotted with spectacular murals, stopping for a glass of sangria and a snack before heading out again. And if you haven’t gotten enough exercise from all of the climbing and exploring, you can go for an evening run along the Mediterranean in Javea (which was perfect after I sampled the local McDonalds). Whatever your taste in climbing, food, or recreation the Costa Blanca is a magnificent place for a climbing vacation.

To see more photos of spain click here: http://www.karstendelap.com/2013/04/25/spain-in-pictures/


Ron Funderburke takes over as the AMGA Single Pitch Ins. Discipline Coordinator

Fox Mountain Guides Head guide Ron Funderburke took over the American Mountain Guides Single Pitch Instructor Discipline Coordinator position on Monday. This position puts Ron in charge of the direction of the program as well as the training for all the AMGA SPI providers across the country. Ron’s extensive experience instructing in single pitch terrain as well as his back ground in teaching helped him secure this position. Fox Mountain Guides is excited for Ron and as always values his leadership to keep us on the cutting edge of guiding and instuction in the United States and the world. Here is Ron’s statement to the AMGA membership:
With utmost excitement, I am pleased to accept the post as Discipline Coordinator for the AMGA SPI Program. The program has enjoyed some unprecedented successes since it’s inception in 2008, and that is a credit to the excellent students, instructors, providers, and trainers. My fervent hope is that everyone out there is still as invested as I am. The front lines of American climbing instruction have always been the single pitch crags, and single pitch instruction is the face of our guides association. That was true in 2003, when I took the AMGA Top Rope Site Manager Course from Adam Fox and Jim Taylor. It was true in 2008, when SPI was born, and it is true today as SPI providers around the country offer education and credentials to new instructors every week of the year. Deploying providers and trainers, standardizing curriculum and certification standards, updating textbooks and manuals, collaborating with our Technical Committee, and a thousand other tasks and inquiries and contributions in between, have been the labor of the SPI Discipline Coordinator. I learned a lot from watching Adam Fox bend his back to the common task. I hope I can use his example, and the inspiration that emanates from all those associated with the SPI program, to work tirelessly, collaborate, and affirm a strong standard. With a new manual brewing, new providers training, old providers refreshing, and hundreds of new single pitch instructors per year, I’m gonna’ hit the ground running, and I couldn’t be any more psyched.
— Ron Funderburke, SPI Discipline Coordinator and AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Locking Munter Hitch

Tyrollean Makes the Red River Gorge SPI Assessment a Go!

The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor assessment that was just taught in the Red River Gorge was a full-conditions course. Karsten had to set a tyrollean over the river because there was so much rain on the first day that there were flash floods!

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Find out More about our AMGA SPI instructor programs.

Where’s That Fox?

Congratulations to Michael Morely for correctly identifying this route as “White Trash” (12a) at Smith Rock and winning a BlueWater 9.1 Icon rope.


Alpine Slideshow by FMG Guides!!!


New Hampshire Ice Trip Tops My List

The annual Fox Mountain Guides New Hampshire Ice Trip is well underway and in fact coming to a close! As one of my favorite trips, it saddens me to see it come to a end every year! The ice climbing in New Hampshire is world class with short approaches and everything from easy, beginner level ice to hardman mixed climbing.

Our month up here starts off with our Ice Climbing 101 Course and the Mountain Washington Valley Ice Fest. I am always psyched to hang out and watch slideshows from some of the best climbers in NH and the world as well as help put on the clinics for this event. Our 101 guests join us in the fun as we cook every night in the chalet and play games and the occasional joke (or magic trick this year) on each other.

We head out to local crags every day and make sure no one goes home without a forearm pump! For those wanting to stay a little longer or pick up where they left off from the previous year, the Ice 201 Course brings an even bigger “pump.” It culimnates with multi-pitch climbing for the all-around ice climbing experience!

Many clients come and book their favorite guide for a few days of climbing where they pick the objectives and come away with some great experiences.

I love this trip! So many good memories with great folks, and this year has added many more!!!