Ice Climbing Frozen Waterfalls with an Adventure Guide

Ice Climbing Frozen Waterfalls with an Adventure Guide

Conquering Scotland’s Icy Dragons

I’ve scaled the mighty Matterhorn in Switzerland, summited Chimborazo in Ecuador, and tackled Gran Paradiso in Italy – thirteen-thousand-footers here, twenty-thousand-footers there. But today, I find myself gearing up for a decidedly less dramatic adventure: a little ice climbing in the Scottish Highlands.

As I stand at the edge of a frozen loch, lacing up my boots and double-checking my gear, I can’t help but feel a twinge of nervousness. Sure, I’ve conquered some of the world’s most formidable peaks, but this is my first time tackling the frozen waterfalls of Scotland. Will I be able to conquer these icy dragons as easily as I’ve conquered the mountains?

Jim Faulkner, my fellow adventurer, senses my hesitation. “For someone who hasn’t done it before, ice climbing may sound exotic and far-off, like you might need to fly halfway around the world,” he says reassuringly. “But you can do it right here in the Scottish Highlands, in a relatively safe way. It’s attainable, affordable, and it can be an experience of a lifetime.”

Getting Geared Up

As our guide, Peter deMos, begins to explain the ins and outs of ice climbing, I can feel my nerves start to settle. He shows us how to properly strap on our crampons, the sharp metal spikes that will grip the ice, and how to swing our ice tools – curved picks that resemble pickaxes – to hack our way up the frozen waterfalls.

“Think of it like flicking your wrist, rather than swinging your whole arm,” Peter instructs. “And keep your legs wide for a greater base of support. You’re almost making a triangle – your legs wider than your upper body.”

As I listen to his advice, I can’t help but draw a mental comparison to my previous mountaineering exploits. Climbing frozen waterfalls may be a far cry from scaling the Matterhorn, but the principles are the same: balance, technique, and a healthy dose of mental fortitude.

Facing the Icy Challenge

With our gear in order, we set off across the frozen loch, trudging through the snow towards the base of the waterfall. I can feel my heart pounding as we approach the towering, icy face – it’s a far cry from the manicured rock walls I’m used to.

Bre Robertson, a first-time climber like myself, seems equally apprehensive. “My legs are rubber and shaking the whole time,” she confesses. “But it’s so much fun, especially because of the group. The encouragement of strangers really goes a long way.”

As Peter sets up the top rope, I take a deep breath and step up to the base of the waterfall. Gripping my ice tools, I begin to carefully hack my way up the frozen surface, kicking my crampons into the ice with each step. It’s a far cry from the graceful ballet of rock climbing – this is pure, unadulterated battle with Mother Nature.

Conquering the Icy Dragon

At first, progress is slow and tentative. I pause frequently, searching for the next secure foothold or handhold. But as I find my rhythm, the climb begins to feel more natural, almost instinctual. The icy surface may be my adversary, but I refuse to let it best me.

As I near the top, I spot a particularly challenging section – a protruding mound of ice that Peter calls a “frozen bubble.” “If you want a challenge, go right over it,” he shouts. “Otherwise, head to your left for an easier route.”

For a brief moment, I consider taking the easy way out. But then, I remember the words of my fellow adventurer, Carsten Schnatwinkel: “Success on these ice dragons requires physical strength, mental fortitude, and the right equipment.” I’m not about to let a little frozen bubble stand in my way.

Gritting my teeth, I swing my ice tools into the icy surface and haul myself up and over the obstacle. As I reach the top, a cheer goes up from the group below, and I can’t help but feel a surge of triumph. I’ve conquered the icy dragon, and I’m one step closer to conquering the frozen waterfalls of the Scottish Highlands.

A Shared Adventure

As the afternoon wears on, we move from one waterfall to the next, each of us taking turns tackling the icy challenges. The camaraderie and encouragement of our little group are palpable, and I can’t help but marvel at the shared experience that brought us together.

“There’s something about a shared experience, a bonding that brings you all together – especially when there’s a potential for danger,” Bre reflects. “It’s one of the reasons I do these things: to meet cool people. Everyone has something in them that they bring to the experience.”

Indeed, as I look around at our motley crew – a peak-bagging mountaineer, a mother overcoming physical challenges, a climber who made her first day on a waterfall look like her hundredth, and a guide who kept us all safe and entertained – I can’t help but feel a sense of kinship. We may have been strangers when we set out, but by the end of the day, we were a team, united by our shared triumph over the icy dragons of the Scottish Highlands.

As the sun dips low and our muscles grow weary, we pack up our gear and begin the trek back across the frozen loch. I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness that our adventure has come to an end. But as I look ahead to the Loch Ness Shores campsite, where we’ll be spending the night, I know that this is just the beginning of a new chapter in my Highland exploits.

Who knows what other icy challenges await me in this rugged and beautiful corner of the world? One thing’s for sure: I’ll be ready, with my trusty ice tools and crampons in hand, ready to take on whatever frozen dragons the Scottish Highlands have in store.

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