Ice Guide : Southcentral : Valdez


Valdez, Alaska is a small community located on the northeast side of Prince William Sound that is probably known to most as the terminus of one of the longest oil pipelines, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. To adventurers, Valdez may be best known for the heli skiing in the Chugach Mountains that in 2010 includes several different outfits to fly with in Valdez. But, Valdez also has a rich history of ice climbing that began back in the 1970s.

Many world-class climbers like Jeff Lowe began visiting Valdez after word got out about the massive, multi-pitch blue ice in Keystone Canyon. He made the first ascent of Keystone Greensteps in a two day push over New Year's Eve in 1975. But, it was really the locals that pushed the level, explored the side canyons, and discovered the classic climbs known today. The late Dr. Andy Embick arrived in Valdez in 1979 and created a community for climbers that helped foster an explosion of new routes. His house became a base camp for many that set out to climb the ice and rock in the area. It was Embick's idea to bring climbers together that lead to the first Valdez Ice Festival in 1984 that was attended by 50 that all stayed at his house. Embick was also instrumental in pioneering new routes like the first ascent of Wowie Zowie in 1981 with Carl Tobin that pushed the standards in ice climbing higher. Others like Roman Dial, John Wieland, Chuck Comstock, Steve Garvey and Brian Teale made big contributions to route development in the '80s. In 1989, Dr. Embick released Blue Ice & Black Gold, a comprehensive guide on the waterfall ice and mixed routes known up to that point. Later, more ice and mixed routes were established that helped solidify Valdez as a premier climbing destination.

This website extends gratitude to Brian Teale for allowing use of the Planet Ice guidebook to help develop this next generation of Valdez waterfall ice guides. Of course, it goes without saying that this online guide could not even be started without the pioneering work of the late Dr. Embick. In the spirit of Embick, this Valdez guide will continue to grow so that others can benefit. It will be a work in progress as more routes are documented in the expansive area around Valdez and the website encourages support from the community to help continue growing this Valdez ice climbing guide.