Winter Climbing Tips and Advice
Depending on where you live, winter tree work may not be a big deal for you. But for those of us who live in areas like Michigan where the weather can be a bit bipolar, winter climbing offers all sorts of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is staying warm enough without overheating while you're working hard. Some winter days can get up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit during lunch. That's the time when it's absolutely beautiful to climb, my workers and I will be shedding layers. This never lasts long though, as it will drop down to 10 degrees the following day! Wearing layer upon layer will have you moving like a penguin with your limb movement restricted. Cold weather climbing can be easy to manage once you’ve figured out how to layer accordingly. Too thick of a layer will make you sweat and when your movements come to a sudden halt, you’ll definitely feel that cool breeze along your spine! I’ve come to be best friends with my weather apps but even then, I’ll still bring extra clothes with me.
I’ve found that keeping my ears, hands and feet warm has been the key for winter climbing. Normally I don’t use gloves when I climb even in the winter, as long as I can tolerate the weather. When it does get unbearable, I usually bust out my Petzl Cordex Plus gloves. These have come to be my favorite for winter and rigging! I’ve had my Arbortec Scafell Lite boots in some dicey weather and they have kept my feet pretty damn warm, of course pairing them with a good wool sock helps with that.
When you're out in the cold, wet snow, it's going to end up freezing and dampening your ropes. You know what gets nasty fast? Wet ropes left in a bag. If you know, you know: it's a terribly, stiff yet cheesy smell. That's why another winter climbing tip includes investing in the Teufelberger Rope Bucket bag. This special bag comes perforated with holes all throughout, which allows wet ropes to dry out easier and without getting stanky.
Climbing on icy limbs is difficult even if you have good tread on your boots and gloves. Slipping on ice is always a matter of when, not if. On days where the trees have a nice layer of ice and all the jobs require climbing, I am super stoked that I have a DMM Captain Hook. This thing is a life saver on wet or iced out trees. It didn’t take too much practice to get the hang of it, you just need to hit that flick of the wrist just right to get it unhooked.
My movement tends to slow down drastically in the winter months and for obvious reasons. Trying to avoid a slip requires some creative solutions. Do you guys climb in the winter months or take time off until the weather breaks again?