Olympic ice climbing athletes will perform on an artifical ice wall, unlike the winter athletes who train regularly on the ice flows of Pok-O-Moonshine or the Cascades.
Even the most hardened Adirondacker is likely to admit the weather patterns over the last few days have been a bit harsh.
Some folks may even go so far as to complain that it’s been a bit too cold for December.
For those who have been counting the months until the return of safe, it seems it is now just about right.
A good cover of solid black ice has already set up on nearly small body of water in the area except for the Big Lake, where even the bays appear to be resisting the deep freeze.
Early ice always seems to bring out the anglers, as it often produces some of the best fishing of the hard-water season.
It also provides the opportunity for many avid ‘ice-heads’ to get reacquainted and to catch up. I’ve always marveled at the outright camaraderie of the sport.
Ice fishing is undoubtedly one of the most social of all outdoor pursuits. It has a way of bringing fishermen together, in a manner that would never even be considered on the ponds or the streams.
On the ponds, anglers tend to be very closed mouthed, and they’re rarely willing to pass along any worthwhile information to strangers, especially newcomers.
The same guy would shun you on a small trout stream, or even try to chase you off from ‘their section’ of the river.
But when you meet the very same individuals on the ice, they can’t seem to stop talking about their secret techniques, the proper fishing depths, the best bait to use or just about anything else that will help others to catch fish.
And if they happen to own a power auger, stand clear if they offer to drill a few holes for you.
I’ve watched ‘em fire-up their custom built, nitro burning, ice augers and chew through enough ice to float a fleet of tuna boats in less than a minute. They can turn pond ice into Swiss cheese before most folks even have a chance to get their tip-ups untangled.
Another interesting phenomenon that has appeared during the annual race to winter ice in recent years has been the invasion of the clamshell shelters.
The old fashioned, ice shanties which were constructed of rough-cut 2x2’s, newspaper tin, a few shingles and a pint of gin seem to have gone out of style.
The newfangled, modern shelters weigh less than a pup tent and they come with a sled that carries all the gear necessary to spend a cold day on a windy lake.
These modern shelters have nearly made the sport bearable for the average man; and they have seemingly reduced the need to venture across the lake in a truck.
A few cautions would be considered before traveling on the ice. Use a sled or an ATV if necessary, but leave the car or truck on shore.
Every year, somebody puts a motor vehicle through the ice. Car insurance is void once you drive onto the ice, and it’s a very expensive process to have a vehicle removed, without even including the daily fines.
Always let someone know your plans, where you’re going and when you expect to return. Always carry a throw rope, ice spikes, a cell phone and be cautious when fishing near inlets, outlets, bridges and other such areas where there is likely to be a current.
The newest sport on Olympic Ice
In Lake Placid, and most of the other Winter Olympic villages around the world, the arrival of ice and snow has always provided the opportunity for athletes to go fast, real fast.
Bobsled and luge athletes will thunder down the track at breakneck speeds, (luge is the only winter sport measured to the 1/1000th) of a second.
Alpine skiers cover ground faster than an avalanche, while ski jumpers typically take to the air with an average speed of nearly 60 mph.
What do these sports have in common? They all involve Olympic caliber athletes who are racing to the bottom in an effort to make it to the top tier of the medal’s podium.
For a change of pace, the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games to be hosted in Sochi will include a new winter sport which will require competitors to race to the top, rather than the bottom.
Their race course will feature some of the toughest, most challenging ice formations in the world.
In Sochi, competitive Ice Climbing will be introduced as a demonstration sport with the intention of making it a full-fledged Olympic sport in future years.
Anyone who has traveled through the Cascades or Chapel Pond pass during the winter months has likely witnessed the non-traditional athletes climbing high on the big, blue, frozen flows. They scale the cliffs with an ice ax in each hand, and a pair of spiked crampons strapped to their boots. And they often dare to tread where even the most surefooted of climbers would never attempt.
Sport climbing was first introduced in 2006 as a demonstration sport during the Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy.
While the full scope of the Sochi climbing events have yet to be announced, it is expected they will include some type of head to head competitions to add excitement to a sport that has long been dominated by the Russians.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.