Ice climbing has notoriously been associated with difficult route finding — especially with the limited print beta that stocks the shelves of climbing shops around North America. To seize this opportunity of creating a comprehensive ice climbing application, renowned ice climber Will Gadd took it upon himself to provide a lasting resource (and guide) for climbers.
No more shelling out hundreds of dollars on Amazon for the now-out-of-print guidebook “Waterfall Ice,” as Gadd makes this — along with books like Sean Isaac’s “Mixed Climbs” and his own climbing insight — available in the convenience of a smartphone application. Titled “Ice and Mixed,” Gadd’s work appears likely to change the way ice climbers locate, approach, and tackle some of the world’s best mixed and ice climbing routes.
Changing the ice climbing game
The “Ice and Mixed” climbing application is a complete guide to more than 1,300 routes in the Canadian Rockies and selected parts of Western Canada, including hundreds of photographs and topography maps. A boon for all kinds of climbers, Gadd chatted with Digital Trends about his game-changing application, sharing his motivation behind creating an app of this functionality and magnitude.
“I originally wanted to just do a new paper guidebook but I was using a lot of mountain biking and other apps that just worked a lot better than a paper guide,” Gadd told us. “A GPS-based app makes a lot more sense when dealing with complex approaches and other issues.”
Originally the goal of the project was to get printed routes onto a digital platform, but this soon transformed into an even bigger project with more promise for area ice climbers. The development process began with print books currently on the market before undergoing its functionality makeover.
“I first bought the rights to a couple great but out-of-print guidebooks then loaded all that information into a huge database,” he continued. “I originally planned to just load it all into a searchable e-book but with GPS laid on top, it turned into a really neat app.”
Finding climbs is key
The available routes are completely searchable by grade, length, aspect, avalanche hazard, location, aspect, and other input variables. One of the most difficult aspects of ice climbing is physically locating the climb, which is why the GPS overlay serves as such a powerful, real-time tool. All routes feature approach descriptions and a bevy of information is constantly being added to the database. The top 100 classic routes have GPS locations for the parking, route, and descriptions for the approach — but this is where expansion is most prevalent.
Though there is a lack of photographs, ice climbs constantly change their appearance, making certain photos unusable in the event the area becomes altered by warm weather and melt effects.
“More photos are good and we’re continually adding more, but right now we’re mainly adding more GPS information,” Gadd explained. “This app fills a direct need: Finding climbs. What they look like is less important than where they are and keeping the app fast and functional is more important than photos.”
The maps, GPS locations, and route descriptions are all accessible offline, making for a useful tool no matter the cell coverage — an important factor to consider when navigating the backcountry.
Just the beginning
While finding climbs is the app’s key feature, “Ice and Mixed” still takes into account the inherent dangers of ice climbing and incorporates measures of safety. All routes are classified according to the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale (ATES) and offer legitimate suggestions on where to go for low avalanche hazard climbs. Regarding the next chapter for the application, Gadd pointed to developing a sort of social function — which remains the main component of the rock climbing application “Sloper” that was released earlier this year.
“Ultimately, we could do a social component but with limited resources, it’s most important the app works well for people,” Gadd said, maintaining that the primary purpose of “Ice and Mixed” is to help people evaluate and locate ice climbs. “The social side of things is important but a lot of the time it’s not high-quality information, and it doesn’t really help. There are already a lot of strong social groups for real-time conditions out there on the web and Facebook.”
With this well-defined goal in mind, “Ice and Mixed” continues to grow and update its database with new climbs and GPS information. For now, the application is limited to Canada, though there is a hint of promise for global expansion.
“I think we’ll cover Canada first and then go from there if it’s working and selling well,” he revealed. “This app is all about curated, useful information that will help people have a better time climbing. There’s lots of information out there in [the] digital land but increasingly it’s the quality of that information that matters. I want edited, verified information, not just a sea of opinion in the apps I use, and Ice and Mixed does that.”
The “Ice and Mixed” app is available on iOS and Android for an annual cost $25 or a discounted rate of $50 for five years, which includes free updates during the entirety of the subscription.