Entries By geoff schellens
Ice season is almost upon us here in Bozeman, Montana with many other U.S. ice destinations soon to follow. I find it very difficult to train for ice climbing this time of year - you want to get comfortable on your tools again, but there isn’t any ice forming yet. These are a few of my favorite pre-season workouts that can get you stronger before you get to swing those picks into a column of ice.
First, I say any climbing is better than no climbing. The rock gym can be a great place to start building upper body strength, balance, and grip strength. I usually warm up by pulling on plastic for an hour or so, mostly easy to moderate routes with two or three that really push me. The goal is to get a little pumped but not so spent that I can’t do a workout after. I take 10-15 minutes to cool down, drink some water, get out of my climbing gear, and transition to the weights.
When I am training specifically for ice climbing I focus most of my efforts on forearms and triceps with some shoulder and bicep work to stay balanced. In my opinion, the best exercises mimic the actual motions done in ice climbing. So, my first go-to ice climbing workout is simply to grab a light dumbbell, 6-12lbs, and hold it like you would an ice tool. If you can watch yourself in the mirror it can help to make sure you maintain good form. Loosely hold the weight in one hand and cock it back over your shoulder, keep your wrist, elbow, and shoulder all in line, and slowly swing the weight like you would an ice tool. Finish with the wrist flick so the weight is just in front of your body, I like to keep my other hand touching my elbow, which helps to encourage good form.
Dead hangs are another great exercise you can do almost anywhere. If you can use your tools that’s the best; I put the picks of both ice tools over a pull-up bar, grab both tools, and hang with elbows slightly bent for 10 seconds. If you are doing it correctly your shoulders should be engaged. I try to draw my shoulder blades towards each other. Do this for 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 10 rounds; that is one set for me, and I try to do 3 sets per workout. Don’t push yourself and tweak a shoulder though, or all this training is for nothing. Start with what makes sense for you and then slowly add repetitions, sets, or increase the time of each dead hang. I often integrate sets into my whole workout so I don’t get too bored.
Next: pull-ups. Find out what your max is and then go for 50-80% of that for three sets. If 10 pull-ups is your threshold, do three sets of 5-8. Try to increase this number over time. Again I mix these into the whole workout so that I have some time to recover.
There are a number of great exercises for grip strength and forearms; I constantly switch it up. The standing bar – rope - weight workout is a great one. With a small bar, stick, or dowel, tie a 5-foot rope to the center and a weight on the other end of the rope. With your arms straight out in front of you slowly twist the bar in your hands to wrap the rope up and lift the weight then reverse the motion to lower it back to the ground. Maintain good form and keep your arms parallel to the ground.
Another forearm workout that I really like is to grab two dumbbells of moderate weight, 5-15 lbs, and hold one in each hand. Slowly I let the weights roll down my palm and fingers until they are close to falling out of my hands and then bring them back up. The first few will leave you asking, “what is the point of this?” by rep 20 you will be screaming for mercy.
The plate pinch is both a forearm and grip exercise. Grab two plates, 2.5, 5, or 10lbs, and position them together so the smooth sides face out. Simply pinch them together with one hand and let them hang by your side. You are going for time here, see how long you can hold it first and then aim for three sets in each hand. Gradually add more and more time over a few weeks. Finally, another fantastic grip strength workout is a spring or rubber doughnut trainer. I keep one in my car and try to use it at every red light.
These are just a few of the upper body workouts that I use when I am patiently, or not so patiently, waiting for temperatures to drop and ice to start forming. I hope you enjoy these and I look forward to seeing you all out on the ice soon.
Geoff Schellens is a certified AMGA Rock Guide, Apprentice Alpine Guide, and an avid ice climber. He lives in Bozeman, MT, and will be leading an expedition to Denali’s Upper West Rib this spring.
Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!
I will be 66 this May. I am active mountain biking regularly am not overweight but live in New Jersey.
I’m a sea level baby. A few years ago about 5 or 6 my brother-in-law who has summered Rainier dozens of times even Denali without oxygen took me up the mountain. Within sight of Muir after sleeping around 9000 feet the next morning carrying my heavy pack I just ran out of gas.
I want to Summit Rainier.
This year I am very busy with trips but want to do it in 2019.
How should I approach this.
I want to use RMI.
Posted by: Norm Price on 1/8/2018 at 6:05 am
September 7, 2017
Posted by: Geoff Schellens
The Mt. Shuksan Seminar, led by RMI Guide Geoff Schellens, reached the summit today. The wildfire smoke obstructed some of the views but the team had a great time on a spectacular route! Some photos from the team above.
August 30, 2017
The Four Day Summit Climb August 27 - 30 led by RMI Guides Geoff Schellens and Mike King were unable to reach the summit of Mt. Rainier today. The teams turned around at 12,700’ due to high winds. The teams have returned safely to Camp Muir. They plan to start their descent to Paradise around 9:30 am PT.
Remember…. it is the trip that is most important…not the destination…per “Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an inquiry into values” by Robert M. Pirsig”...from a ‘60s mama…...love and prayers for all…come home safely.
Posted by: Sharen Hart on 8/30/2017 at 7:37 pm
Glad you’re all safe. Even though you weren’t able to reach the summit, I hope the journey was an adventure!
Posted by: Elise Resnick on 8/30/2017 at 5:16 pm
August 15, 2017
The Four Day Summit Climb August 12 - 15 led by RMI Guide Geoff Schellens turned around today at 13,300’ due to difficult terrain. The team reported a nice day with calm winds. The team will return to Camp Muir and continue their descent to Paradise later today.
August 11, 2017
RMI Guides Geoff Schellens and Mike King lead their teams to the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning. After enjoying some time in the crater they started their descent to Camp Muir. They will take a short rest and then continue down to Paradise.
Congratulations to today’s Summit Climbers!
August 6, 2017
The Four Day Summit Climb led by RMI Guides Geoff Schellens and JM Gorum were walking onto Columbia Crest, the very top of Mt. Rainier at 6:10am this morning. The team reported warm temperatures, calm winds, and clear skies above the smoke layer that is currently covering the lower elevations of Western Washington.
Congratulations to today’s team!
Congratulations team!! Proud of you….
Posted by: Rajan on 8/6/2017 at 8:50 am
Awesome job Ben! Oli and I love you!!
Posted by: Rachel on 8/6/2017 at 7:54 am
Amazing to think that just 24 hours ago we were striking our high camp on Alpamayo at 17,500’ in the snow, ice, cold and wind and now we are hiking in T-shirts and shorts past cactus and gorgeous rivers. Back in Base Camp this morning we had a very civilized breakfast of bacon and eggs with lots of strong coffee, loading donkeys and shortly after 9 AM we hit the trail. Chased by clouds and propelled by music the 6 hour hike back to Casha Pompa went by quickly and by mid afternoon we were sitting in a courtyard sweaty, dirty, but happy with a beer in hand. Then a three hour van ride brought us back to Huaraz. After cleaning ourselves up we met for drinks and dinner at the Andino and realized that we are all still on mountain time. Most people are starting dinner around the time we are ready for bed.
Because we didn’t use our weather day we have bought ourselves an extra day here in Huaraz, we will most likely sleep in, slowly re enter the “real world” and wander around town tomorrow. We are all happy to be back.
Thanks for following along
RMI Guide Geoff Schellens and the Alpamayo Team
Alpamayo team heading down hill.
As we crawled out of our tents this chilly morning we saw clouds whipping around Alpamayo and throughout the range. Very glad we climbed yesterday. We packed up, had coffee and began our descent by mid morning. Three rappels from the col got us back on the glacier and easy walking back to Moraine Camp. The team did great despite being tired form the efforts of yesterday. At Moraine Camp we took a good long break before shouldering our heavy packs again. We picked our way through the rocks and slabs leading back to Base Camp. Ilario, our base camp cook, was waiting and had individual pizzas for us shortly after rolling in. We are all glad to be back in the land of trees and grass, tired but happy. This afternoon we are organizing gear for the donkeys to haul down tomorrow and resting. Tomorrow we will make the walk all the way to Casha Pompa, and catch our shuttle back to Huaraz.
That’s all for now,
RMI Guide Geoff Schellens and the A Team
The team summits Alpamayo!
We had a spectacular climb starting this morning just after midnight. A short walk on the glacier slowly became steeper as we approach the massive wall of ice and snow in front of us. Once we crossed the bergschrund we pointed our headlamps up the runnel but our lights were lost in snow ice and darkness above. We began pitching it out, climbing a full rope length before building an anchor and belaying the second climber up. In this fashion we inch-wormed our way up into the steep snow and ice. The climbing was superb, soft enough to accept the pick of an ice tool but firm enough to support a crampon. We climbed nine of the 12 pitches in the dark, but as we closed in on the summit the sun began rising across the Cordillera Blanca. Truly outstanding views as we celebrated on the summit before making our descent back down the face. Seven full length rappels brought us to the glacier below and then on to our High Camp. Extremely tired but also satisfied the team is eating, drinking, and napping for the rest of the day before making our descent to Base Camp tomorrow.
Thanks for all the support and following along on this incredible expedition.
RMI Guide Geoff Schellens and the Alpamayo Team
Congratulations to all of you!!! Spectacular photos.
Posted by: Lisa on 7/24/2017 at 3:01 pm
After a couple hard days of climbing we took a rest day today to acclimatize and rest up for our summit bid tonight. Everyone is doing very well and as we put the final touches on packing and organizing the excitement is palpable. It has been a calm and sunny day with the beautiful south face of Alpamayo hanging above us.
That’s all for now.
More tomorrow after our summit bid
RMI Guide Geoff Schellens and the Alpamayo Team