ProGuide Ice and Mixed Climbing Class with Marten Volken

Stellar Falls. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

The air was crisp, the cloud cover low and the ice was in.  A perfect day to improve our skills and gain top-knotch instruction from Pro Guide’s veteran ice climbing instructors.  Waterfall ice climbing courses are a rarity in Western Washington; Pro Guide being one of the few companies that offers excellent instruction at the affordable price of $110 (the cost in January 2010). Pro Guide, unlike many other companies and organizations that only offer ice climbing classes in October when all that’s climbable are glacial seracs, offers it’s class in January when the waterfall ice is in and calling for climbers to climb it. So, when Santa brings you those wicked new ice tools for Christmas or slick new crampons, you can then go tear up some ice under the skilled tutelage of one of Pro Guide’s elite instructors.

We met our instructor, Martin Volken, at the Alpental Parking lot. Pro

Climbing Stellar Falls.

Guides’ Ice and Mixed Climbing one-day class takes place around the Alpental ski area, usually either close to the ski hill or a short hike away at Source Lake.  The class does not require any previous ice climbing knowledge and has extra ice tools, crampons and harnesses to loan for those who do not have them. Yet, don’t be deterred all you seasoned ice climbers who are looking to improve and fine tune your skills.  The instructors are still able to find plenty of challenging ice and provide instruction tailored to your skill level.  Because the class size is so small, a 4:1 or 8:2 ratio, the instructors are able to easily give each student the one-on-one attention and juggle multiple skill levels in the class without compromising any student’s ability to learn and improve.

The money section - some sweet WI-4 climbing. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

Our climb for the day was Stellar Falls.  And yes, it did live up to it’s name.  Fat, dramatic looking ice that, thanks to the conditions, was easy to stick our tools in.  It’s a relative long, top-ropable frozen waterfall that gets steep enough in places to allow for some solid WI4 ice for extended periods of the climb.  The Falls are located within the Alpental Ski area and contain enough variety for both beginners and more advanced climbers.  The routes are usually WI3 and WI4 routes, in addition to mixed climbs off to the right.  It was a great location for an ice climbing class.  Because the class sizes are so small, we were able to focus on the specific things that we wanted to learn.  Martin was great at teaching both the beginners and those of us with more ice climbing experience.

We reviewed good ice tool placement, discussed pros and cons of different types of ice tools and crampons, discussed

Marten Volken showing us how it's done. Photo by Genevieve Hathaway.

evaluating waterfall ice for determining good and bad ice and then it was time to climb some ice (which by now we were all biting at the bit to do).  A number of top-ropes were set up so that we could climb and belay to our hearts content and not spend time standing around.  Martin showed us good technique and tricks for not getting over pumped on long vertical WI4/WI5 climbs, which was one specific area that many of us, including this writer, wanted to work on. We discussed good placement of ice screws and even got to practice some mock leading. And for those who wanted to practiced mixed climbing (also known as drytooling), the right side of the climb was a mixed route.

After a full day of swinging my tools into the ice, this climber was beat but on cloud 9.  I had learned advanced ice climbing techniques, become a stronger and more skilled ice climber, gained the right kind of knowledge that allows me to independently evaluate ice climbs (instead of relying on my partners, when it’s my life on the line I want to be able to evaluate the safety of what I am doing) and developed a solid foundation that will help me to become a good lead climber.

Whether you have never ice climbed before, or you have ice climbed extensively and want to either fine tune your skills or learn specific things – this is the class for you!

For more information on this class and other Pro Guide classes and private guiding options click on the link:


~ by Genevieve Hathaway on April 15, 2010.

4 Responses to “ProGuide Ice and Mixed Climbing Class with Marten Volken”

  1. Hi Genevieve ! Found your blog through Climbergirl. It was a great class, I had fun ! Wrote my post back in January –
    somehow I thought the spot was Kiddie Cliff falls ( ?).
    Keep in touch !

    • Hey Paul,

      So great to hear from you! Thanks for the comment and link to your blog! It was such an awesome class. 🙂

      – Genevieve

  2. Another reader referred by climbergirl; really interesting to read, especially as I had my first try of ice climbing near Lilloet, BC, back in March… I had a great time so it’s always good to hear that I’m not the only one who like crampons, axes and ice!

  3. […] Stellar Falls is approached from the Alpental Ski Hill. Hike along the left side of the main chair lift.  And by left side I mean way left side.  Hug the boundary tape so as to not get in the way of skiiers barreling down the hill or piss off the ski patrollers.  You’ll see the falls on your left near the top of the chairlift.  There is also an M-5 mixed route to the right of Stellar Falls.  When I climbed it last year it was in big and fat with a solid WI3+ rating on the upper portion.  Not so far this year.  We tried to read the top to top rope some drytooling on the right hand side of the climb, but after hiking up (read snow wallowing in snow up to our waist) parallel with the top of the climb, the avy danger was too sketch to read the trees for top-roping. […]

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