This past winter, Seattle area resident Roger Bischoff, who was training to climb Alaska's ice-bound Denali (Mt. McKinley), took a three-day ice climbing course in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with REI Adventures. "I trust REI Adventures as I've been on other trips with them, and I didn't have much time to plan the trip in advance, so it seemed like a no-brainer to sign up with them," says Bischoff. He also brought along his 14-year-old nephew, Zak, who had no experience with winter mountaineering.
"The group climbing was small so I felt like we had quality time with the guide," says Biscoff. "We had a blast and explored all of the basics. I walked away from the experience with an appreciation of the sport and felt that I learned enough to be more confident if we encountered technical ice on the McKinley route. My nephew had a blast too. He's been asking me when we can go again, saying that I got him hooked on ice climbing."
During REI's course, you'll spend two full days learning how to safely use equipment like ice axes, crampons, and rope systems and how to properly dress, eat, and condition yourself for winter climbing. You'll practice your skills in various locations in the White Mountains, depending on weather conditions, perhaps climbing the frozen waterfalls of Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch or the ice-encased ravines of Mt. Washington, New England's highest peak.
"The White Mountains are pretty spectacular, and in the winter they're just magnificent," says Bischoff. "In all, the experience [of the course in its entirety] was the highlight—doing something I haven't done before with a cool group of folks on a well-organized trip in an amazing landscape."
Trip planningThis trip has openings for its January 16 and February 13 departures. The $425 rate is for REI members; non-members pay $465. If you're not already a member it's worthwhile to get a lifetime membership as it only costs $20. Prices cover accommodations, breakfasts, instruction and guides, all group climbing gear and technical equipment, and permits. Personal cold weather gear, some meals, and transportation to the trip start point in Plymouth, New Hampshire, are extra. Plymouth is about a 65-mile drive from the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Summit South America's tallest peak
Provider: INKA Expediciones Length: 16 days Price: from $2,985
Ever fantasize about being the next Edmund Hillary or Ed Viesturs, or at least making it to the top of one of the world's tallest mountains? While climbing a peak like Everest or K2 is physically and financially out of reach for most adventure travelers, summiting the highest mountain outside of Asia and the second-most prominent peak on Earth is not a pipe dream.
Argentina's 22,840-foot Aconcagua, which translates as "Stone Sentinel" in the local language, can be conquered by fit, healthy climbers with some familiarity with mountaineering skills and the mental toughness to overcome high altitudes and potentially cold, windy weather.