During the warmer seasons, scaling a vertical rock face takes skill, strength, stamina and courage. In winter, when the rock face is covered with snow and ice, it takes a whole lot more. Ice climbing or mountaineering is a specialized form of mountain climbing, and its popularity among extreme athletes is at an all-time high. It requires specialized equipment and an iron nerve so it may not be for everyone. For those interested in ice climbing, start here. Here are the best places for ice climbers near Pittsburgh.
4037 William Penn Highway
Monroeville, PA 15146
Exkursion Outfitters, located in Monroeville, is the Pittsburgh area’s best source for ice climbing supplies, guides and professional instruction. Owner Fred Gunter first opened the store in 1974 to fill a niche in the backpacking, kayaking and climbing market. Since then, Exkursion Outfitters has evolved into the largest independent supplier of extreme outdoor equipment and is a favorite amongst the ice-climbing community.
Water Stone Outdoors
101 E. Wiseman Ave.
Fayetteville, WV 25840
For outdoor enthusiasts, a trip to the New River Gorge area of West Virginia would be incomplete without a visit to Water Stone Outdoors. The New River Gorge, a metaphorical mecca for extreme sports is probably best known for its annual Bridge Day Celebration in which hundreds of base jumpers come from all corners of the globe to leap from center of the New River Gorge Bridge. For those more interested in scaling the walls of the gorge as opposed to leaping from them, Water Stone has got you covered. Since 1994, it has supplied mountaineers with everything they need to attempt a climb on one of the more than 20 sandstone rock wall routes that attract climbers year round.
801 N. Negley Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
In 1947, the Explorers Club of Pittsburgh started with the straightforward motto: Research, Education and Adventure. More than 65 years later, those same principles are still at the center of everything the ECP does. Activities of pursuit by the club include mountaineering, cycling, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, backpacking, scuba diving, caving, rock climbing, environmental and community service projects, and a host of other outdoor sports.
2468 Wildwood Road
Wildwood, PA 15091
Touting itself as “the best little wall in the country,” the term little may no longer apply. With more 5,000 square feet of boulder wall climbing space, the facility offers beginners one of the best places around to get started in ice climbing and mountaineering. The climbing walls at Climb North vary from beginner to advanced, so it’s the perfect place for expert climbers to brush up on their skills before taking to the real thing.
33 Terminal Way Suite 537A
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Venture Outdoors is a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization. The folks at Venture Outdoors oversee more than 500 programs annually. Everything from hiking, biking and rock climbing to kayaking, fishing and cross-country skiing is included on the list. Placing an emphasis on instruction and education, Venture Outdoors is the perfect resource for learning about winter mountaineering and ice-climbing.
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Marcel Tourdot is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh. His work can be found at Examiner.com.