Review: Ice Climbing at Northern Lights Rock and Ice

I’ve had ice climbing on my bucket list for a long time now, and I’m stoked to say that I finally got a chance to check it off on Saturday this past weekend. After getting one heck of a phenomenal deal on LivingSocial, Rob and I made the trek up to Essex Junction, Vermont to visit the folks at Northern Lights Rock & Ice. So if you’re interested in trying ice climbing, read on!

Rob and I figuring it all out on the Northern Lights practice wall.

Rob and I figuring it all out on the Northern Lights practice wall.

To start, Essex Junction, Vermont is quite the drive for anyone at just short of 3 hours from the Manchester, NH area. Fortunately it’s a super easy drive up 89 with lots of gas stations, restaurants, and places to stop along the way so it really doesn’t seem like that bad of a drive! I will admit though that the exit for Northern Lights will totally throw you off. Their location is in fact between an outlet mall and a culinary resort and spa, but that could be a great drop off point for those not interested in climbing. Convenient, eh?

Northern Lights has quite the array of activities for visitors all throughout the year. My eyes kept wandering over to a huge ropes course boasting heights of 40′, but we were there for the ice climbing and the towering wall of blue and white ice was a spectacular sight for this newbie. At 25′ tall, the manmade ice wall is pretty incredible… if not a little daunting.

We quickly met Jay and Peter who would be our instructors and belayers. We were pretty relieved to find both of them abundantly full of humor, knowledge, and first hand experience on both ice and rock. We’re always astounded how many outdoor recreation locations employ guides with little first hand knowledge or people skills, but Northern Lights certainly doesn’t have that problem. We could have talked ice, rock, and snowboarding with them all day!

Northern Lights Rock & IceAfter going over the basics of how to use our gear, move intelligently, and what not to do, Jay and Peter got us ready to climb more than half a dozen routes ranging from easy to incredibly interesting. As expected, it was addicting, challenging, and pretty awesome. Jay and Peter did a fantastic job of keeping us feeling safe the entire time while answering my many questions regarding ice climbing in less controlled situations. At the end of two hours, my muscles were aching and I had sent every route I tried. There’s nothing quite like setting out to try something new… rocking it. It makes the experience so much better, and of course all the more addicting.

For those of you who want to give ice climbing a try but intimidated by prices, approach, and looking like a newbie – I’d highly suggest checking out Northern Lights Rock & Ice. We’ll definitely be visiting them again in the future for their other activities!

A huge thanks to Jay and Peter for being our guides and belayers. They had no idea they were going to get written about, so our experience was totally authentic… and awesome. Thank you, guys! Hopefully we’ll see you again!

Just wouldn't be us unless we were stabbing each other with ice axes. ;)

Just wouldn’t be us unless we were stabbing each other with ice axes. 😉

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!