“Ice climbing is a cold, miserable activity to do; these days technology makes it more
comfortable, but still, you’re climbing up a frozen piece of water.”
Chris Grishler is doing everything he can to make ice-climbing appeal to the masses in Whitehorse. Grishler is the owner of Equinox Adventures, the company that erected six ice towers behind Boston Pizza.
Years back he saw a picture of an ice tower. He tried building one in his backyard. He’s been building them every winter for 13 years now.
Equinox had been operating at Takhini Hotsprings, but now the company has space at Waterfront Station, near the Blackbird Bakery. And Northern Vision Development let Grishler use one of its empty lots for his ice towers. “In a few years this will be condos.” Grishler laughs.
Bringing the towers downtown lets more people see them, and the city setting gives the operation a different feel. “So you’re up on the towers and you look one way, you see wilderness, Yukon-esque scenery, and then you look the other way and you see all these buildings with cars driving by and fire trucks and what not.”
More people have been coming out to climb, and to try climbing, since the towers have been in the city. But Grishler says it’s still overbearing for people to put on the harness, crampons, get roped in, and scale up the towers with pick axes. So three towers are kept for climbing, and two are for Ice Treks. These towers have walkways leading up a level, then there are caves and a walkway and stairs. Everything is made of ice. Tours are led up the stairs, through the tunnels — everyone is connected to a safety line. Then there are two ziplines to get people back down to the ground.
“As far as I know we’re the only place on the planet where you can do this.”
Grishler has always climbed. Before he started Equinox, he used to travel around Canada building rope courses and climbing walls. “Adventure is a big part of my life,” he says. “Specifically sharing adventure with other people; using it as an activity for people to get together and do something interesting.”
Grishler says every winter they hold ice climbing races — who can get up and down the towers fastest? But this year they are taking it to another level. There is going to be racing, where teams have a climber and two people on the ground to haul on the ropes to make the climber go as fast as possible. Teams will race head-to-head, adding an exciting element. There is also going to be a DJ, and a light show, and lasers.
Daniel Ashley is the DJ. DJ Dash. He works with Grishler at Equinox; he teaches and climbs. “It’s very cool when you put lights on the ice. You get this really neat effect where you can have different colours overlapping.”
Ashley’s music choice will also encourage speed among the competitors. He’s really into funk, and electro-swing; fast paced tunes.
Grishler says they’ll ask the city if they can have a bonfire, but if people get cold they can always go inside the building. They can also dance to keep warm.
Even with the new, convenient location of the towers, it’s still hard for Grishler to make ice climbing unintimidating. But he loves climbing because of the fresh air, and the challenge. “Ice climbing helps people realize there’s a little bit more inside them than they thought.”