Ice Climbing in Stowe: An Insider’s Guide

January 8, 2020


Ice climbing in Stowe, Vermont is a unique adventure pursued by climbers of all abilities from around the world. Nestled between Stowe Mountain Resort and Smugglers’ Notch ski area on Route 108, a scenic road closed during the winter months, there are numerous climbs, considered world-class and among the best in New England, ranging from moderate to extremely difficult.

Preparing for you Ice Climbing Adventure

When Route 108 is closed to traffic, ice climbs in Smugglers’ Notch can be accessed with a 30- to 60-minute approach to the base of the climbs. Climbers traditionally ski, snowshoe or walk to the climbs before donning crampons, a harness, ice ax and helmet. Ice climbing is a game of body temperature management and is most enjoyable, exhilarating and fun when you’re prepared with plenty of warm clothes, extra gloves, food and water. Given the proximity of the Notch to town, novices often underestimate how quickly conditions can become harsh and even life-threatening up there, which is why it’s important to pack appropriately and have basic survival gear.

Where to go Ice Climbing

Some of the more popular ice climbs in Smugglers’ Notch include Jeffersonville Slide, ENT Gully, Hidden Gully, Territory, Doug’s Route, and Blind Faith, to name only a few. All offer beautiful views of the Jeffersonville and Stowe sides from the top—views that hikers often see during the summer months from the many local hiking trails. There are close to 100 climbs, and the number is constantly changing as experienced climbers continue to set new routes and establish first ascents. Climbers should have a complete understanding of ice climbing and descent techniques, as well as an understanding of avalanche potential which, despite misconceptions, can also happen on the east coast. There have been recent avalanches in the area resulting in injuries that could have been avoided with proper preparation.

Ice Climbing Expertise

There are other ice climbing options outside of Stowe. Just a little over an hour from Stowe is the famous Lake Willoughby. After graduating from ice climbing in “the Notch,” Lake Wiloughby steps it up a “notch” offering amore extreme weather and climbing challenge that requires a thorough understanding of the sport. Sunrise Mountain Guides in Stowe, Vermont is a local service for questions, conditions and guiding for your ice climbing adventures, from beginning instruction to advanced guiding of multi-pitch routes, as well as outfit any climber for the experience.

About the Author:
Alex Sargent and Greg Speer own and operate Sunrise Mountain Guides. Alex is retired from the US Army’s Mountain Warfare School where he guided Soldiers and Federal Agents around the world in combat and non-combat mountain operations. Alex has many first ascents of rock and ice climbs in Smugglers Notch and is a professional Member Rock Instructor of the American Mountain Guide Association.

Images courtesy of Sunrise Mountain Guides.

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