Chris Gishler, right, gives some last second tips to Alexia Ackert, before she attempts her first ever ice climb. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Ice, ice, baby: scaling a frozen Yukon waterfall

‘There’s a really transformative affect with adventure’

Alexia Ackert and Sam Bidaman had wanted to try ice climbing for years, but didn’t really have an opportunity until they moved to Whitehorse recently. They had been rock climbing plenty of times, but never scaled a wall of ice.

“It’s our birthday gifts to ourselves,” Bidaman said.

After an almost two-hour drive and a 10-minute hike in the woods, the two adventurers and their guide, Chris Gishler of Equinox Adventures, arrived at a frozen waterfall on Mount White. It looked small and fairly easy to climb, but looks can be deceiving.

Bidaman took to the cascading wall of ice first. It was slow going for him, having never used ice picks and crampons to climb before.

“It’s easy to get flaily,” he said with a chuckle. “Especially when your arms and hands get tired.”

His first climb may not have been the most graceful climb he added, but he made it to the top and that’s the prime objective.

Ackert attempted the frozen waterfall second. About halfway up she turned and yelled down, “I don’t trust the ice picks as much as I do my hands.”

With every swing of the pick the climber is assaulted with a barrage of ice debris, but they have to be strong and precise with their swings, or risk not having a strong hold.

“It was a lot harder than I was expecting,” said Ackert, who also made it to the top on her first try.

Despite the cold hands, burning forearms and ice to the face, both climbers couldn’t wait to climb again once they got back to the bottom.

Helping conquer fear and succeed has perhaps been Gishler’s favourite part of teaching climbing to tourists and Yukoners alike over the last 16 years.

“There’s a really transformative affect with adventure,” he said. “It’s really neat to see people come out and grow as a person a little bit by trying something new.”

Gishler started the business in 2002, after he couldn’t find another adventure company that offered what he wanted to do. Equinox now has several different customized ice climbing adventures, depending on how long and how intense the client wants the experience to be. If a person wants a shorter, low-risk trial, they can attempt the company’s ice tower at Mount Sima.

Contact Crystal Schick at crystal.schick@yukon-news.com

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Alexia Ackert crawls a little higher as she scales a frozen waterfall on Mt. White. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

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