Ep. 14 - Ice Climbing in the Age of Climate Change with Taylor Luneau
Jan 24, 2024
I’ve been dry-tooling more than ice climbing this winter, largely because it’s been frustratingly warm in New England. Call this my adaptation strategy — but really, I feel like I’m just getting ahead of the curve since trigger alert: dry-tooling is the future of ice climbing. #provemewrong(please)
Not to be all dire, dour and doom and gloom, but globally, climate change is leading to fewer days below 0°C, aka, the planet is warming. (according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from 2021). Since ice forms below the freezing temp of water, it’s not hard to see that the result will be fewer climbable days of ice as a result.
So what’s an ice climber to do?
Today, we chat with Taylor Luneau, an ice climber from Vermont, former Policy Director of the American Alpine Club, and current Conservation Manager at The Wilderness Society. Taylor has spent the bulk of his adult working life in conservation efforts, protecting public land, and now, supporting climate change mitigation strategies through forest management policies.
During his time at the AAC, Taylor commissioned a first-of-its-kind study evaluating ice season length for one of the premiere ice climbing destinations in the U.S. — the Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire. You might have seem the film that came out of this, freeze//thaw, which shares the scientific findings and socioeconomic impact on guides in the area. Definitely worth watching.
We talk about the study, how climbers can get involved in responding to climate change, along with mitigation and adaptation strategies in today’s episode.
Behind the scenes:
I'd wanted to do an episode about how climate change was impacting ice season length from the beginning. I had reached out to a few folks but realized they didn't have the combination of experiences I was looking for — I wanted someone who was clearly passionate about ice climbing, had taken demonstrable steps toward contributing to solutions, and, frankly, who is personable and relatable.
Once I saw freeze/thaw and started looking into who was behind it, I thought Taylor would be a great fit. Then when we first spoke, I knew that to be the case.
3:56 - Is it an end of an era for ice climbers in New England?
6:22 - Growing up in Vermont
11:36 - Interest in environmental policy
17:45 - Experiencing climate change firsthand
20:07 - Work with the AAC
27:31 - Targetting climate messaging
31:21 - Climate solutions
35:21 - Mount Washington Valley study
51:27 - How can climbers take action?
Resources and links:
To learn more about the Mount Washington Valley study, here is the webpage that has “freeze//thaw”, an article by Jimmy Voorhis and Micheal Wejchert, and the full study by Voorhis, McDowell, and Burakowski, et al.
Nationwide forest plan amendment to conserve old growth:
Remember that the scoping period runs through February 2nd. Here are some resources to learn more and get involved:
TWS Action Alert on the national amendment to all forest plans to conserve old growth
Federal Register scoping notice for the national amendment to all forest plans to conserve old growth
USDA Press Release on national old growth amendment
Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) Amendment:
The comment period wraps up on January 29th. Here are more resources and how to comment:
TWS Action Alert on the NWFP
TWS Blog explaining what the NWFP is and what's happening
US Forest Service landing page for NWFP amendment
USFS comment portal for the NWFP: here
Make sure to get your voice heard!
A big thanks to our sponsor, Blue Ice, for supporting this show!
Blue Ice is the best kind of ice, and also my choice when it comes to fast and light ice climbing gear. Their Aero Lites go in like a hot knife through butter and their climbing packs hit the sweet spot between function and lightweight. Designed to get to the point in the alpine, their gear is tested by mountain professionals between the Alps and the Wasatch. If you’re looking to get to the point too — and with a little less weight on your kit, check out Blue Ice’s gear at blueice.com or your favorite local retailer.
Episode cover photo by Marcus Garcia.
Intro music by Hannah Noelle Enomoto (thanks, sis!).
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