'It felt like I was floating': Climbing newbies scale ice tower at Whitehorse ski hill

Saturday’s Equinox Adventures' Ice Fest gave inexperienced climbers the chance to climb the tower, enjoy a roasted smokie and raise money to send a child to camp.

Equinox Adventures hosts annual Ice Fest at Mount Sima

Whitehorse resident Jamella Hagen rings the bell on the 20 metre ice tower at Mount Sima. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Cheers of "Ring the bell! Ring the bell!" surround the 20-metre ice tower at the base of the Mount Sima ski hill as a climber reaches out with an ice axe to signal the end of their climb.

Saturday's Equinox Adventures' Ice Fest gave inexperienced climbers the chance to speed-climb the tower with the help of two power belayers — the people who handle the rope to which the climber is secured — at the base, enjoy a roasted smokie and raise money to send a child to camp.

"It felt a little bit like I was floating," said eight-year-old Aila Massie, who tried ice climbing for the first time.

Eight-year-old Aila Massie said it 'felt like floating' when climbing up at the ice tower at Mount Sima on Saturday. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"When you're going up, I felt like it was just pulling me up instead of me anchoring myself up ... I felt really brave and then when I looked down I realized how far up I was and I'm like, 'OK, this is kinda high.'"

The view is one feature Equinox Adventures' founder Chris Gishler points to as a reason why people should give ice climbing a go.

"The view from the top is fantastic and beating up ice with ice axes is a lot of fun and a good way to work things out," he said.

Gishler said when he moved to Whitehorse in 2000, there were only a handful of rock climbers. Now the community has grown to a couple hundred.

He said there still aren't as many people ice climbing.

Equinox Adventures owner Chris Gishler said ice climbing is 'a chance to try something new and realize you can do something that maybe you didn’t think you could do before.' (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

"It's a chance to try something new and sort of realize you can do something that maybe you didn't think you could do before," he said.

Gishler was taking donations to send a child to one of Equinox's camp programs, either during March Break or in the summer.

A weeklong camp at Equinox costs $340, he said.

"I think it's so important to get our kids out playing in the outdoors, fresh air, mucking around in the snow and the ice and in the summer, in the mud and the water — it's just good for them," said Gishler.