NYC: Ice Climbing with Doug Ferguson

All event photos by Zak Suhar. You can follow him on instagram, Facebook and twitter and check out his work at

On Tuesday night we gathered at The North Face to hear from Doug Ferguson who has been climbing and guiding in New York State for decades. Fresh off a day of guiding, Doug brought his full pack of gear, his favorite ice photos and advice for local ice climbers.

Ice Gear by Zak Suhar

A few of our notes from the talk:

Q. Does rock climbing translate to ice climbing?

A. It depends. Certain soft skills like tying knots and knowing belay commands translate well. Physically, knowing how to adjust your weight and find balance is also essential for both disciplines. The muscle groups though are totally different. In Doug’s words “the only way to train for that is to become a carpenter and swing a hammer consistently.”

Doug tries to run 6 days of the week. He recommends it so you can “have that cardio workout for keeping your heart rate low while you’re redlining in your head.”

Q. How do you deal with fear?

The fear is something you never lose.

Doug was honest about how fear is always present when he’s climbing. Yet, “there is a way that helps me out… it’s called science”. He’ll go through how the harness is designed and assess the likelihood of scary scenarios his mind is telling him. He did stress that you should listen to your intuition and that it was totally okay to look at something and decide to skip it.

Ice photo by Doug Ferguson

Q. How do we figure out where to go ice climbing near NYC?

First, Doug will figure out where it’s cold (and where it’s been consistently cold). Those regions usually include the Adirondacks, Vermont and New Hampshire. He noted that the Catskills are usually one of the last places to get ice and it’s more infrequent now because of climate change.

What’s North facing? What has consistent flow of water (not too much, not too little)? What has the temperature been like?

Once he’s figured out a region or an area, he’ll use resources like local guidebooks, Mountain Project and even Facebook groups to get as much information on the routes and the conditions before he goes.

A few areas he recommends checking out are:

Lake Willoughby (Vermont)

Mount Washington (New Hampshire)

Smugglers Notch (Vermont)

That being said… “The conditions are continually changing, minute by minute and day by day. You have to be willing to drive up and figure it out.”

Q. How do you get good at ice climbing?

Ice is something you read. It’s about knowing how to manipulate conditions with tools.

Doug Ferguson, Ice Climbing Guide

He added: “50 is the age of a good ice climber. They destroy ice because it’s all about experience. “

For everyone interested in exploring locally, we definitely recommend Doug & Mountain Skills for an awesome day out. You can check out his site here.

Mappy Hour

As always, thank you to The North Face for making this event a reality, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. for bringing your delicious beers and everyone who joined us for the night! Join the chapter to find out about our next events.

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