Former state resident writes ice climbing book

From one of Pennsylvania’s biggest cities to the mountains of Colorado, Robert Ginieczki has polished his skill at ice climbing.

Often a leisurely, carefully thought-out adventure, climbing also can be done quite quickly.

On the ice-covered rocks of Ouray, Colorado, Ginieczki recently competed in a speed climbing contest for the second time.

“The speed competition consists of two, side-by-side, 100-foot ice routes that two competitors climb head to head. The goal is to race to the top and ring a bell, be lowered to the ground, switch ropes and climb the other route to the top,” he said. “My time of 1:56 is the combined effort of both climbs. I placed 15th in a field of 25 mostly professional climbing athletes.

Speed climbing competitions are popular in Europe. The speeds of Olympic-class climbers are less than half his time, Ginieczki said.

“Regardless, it is a fun way to climb ice in a somewhat counter-intuitive way, with some of the world’s best climbers,” he said.

Ginieczki was born in northeast Philadelphia and came of age in Bucks County. He then moved to Colorado and has lived there for the past 33 years, but he knows much of the Keystone State.

“I know the state of Pennsylvania quite well and have traveled extensively throughout it, writing my guidebooks. Many nights were spent camping out in the various state forests, sharing good time with friends around an oak campfire under starry skies. I have developed a bunch of lifelong friendships with deep roots in Pennsylvania through my writing,” he said.

So, in a effort to continue to explore the state and climb it, Ginieczki independently funded, wrote and self published a guidebook titled “Ice Climbing Pennsylvania.”

“I wrote the book as a way for me to personally see the ice-climbing opportunities in the great state of Pennsylvania, (which) has a surprising amount of outdoor recreation opportunities, including ice climbing,” he said.

Ginieczk has climbed all over the the United States and Canada. He now lives in Frisco, Colorado, and, when he isn’t climbing, teaches elementary school art, which he has been doing for the past 20 years. He is a potter by trade.

“My passion for climbing and sharing my experiences with others was the reason behind the guide. The book also serves as a physical document for land managers to continue to provide access to these special places,” Ginieczki said. “The book is dedicated to friend Jeff, who passed while ice climbing in Pennsylvania, and my ice climbing mentor, Brint, whom I continue to share many climbing adventures with.”

He likes ice routes, he said, which typically are found in the Canadian rockies. He climbs six months of the year in nearby Vail, Colorado, adding that it is one of the best ice and mixed climbing venues in the lower 48 states.

“Winter and summer, I have been to numerous climbing destinations. Two summers ago, I summited Denali, self-supported with a great friend. Denali is the highest peak in North America and one of the seven summits of the world,” he said.

Weather is, of course, the deciding factor in the state when it comes to suitable conditions for ice climbing. It often is temperamental throughout the winter, but Ginieczki said many constant ice formations exist in the state.

Ginieczki said he has climbed all the areas features in his Pennsylvania guidebook and took most of the photos.

“I had some help from Ray Burnsworth and Tim Anderson in covering the southwestern part of the state but made many trips out there to climb some of the spectacular ice route in that region,” Ginieczki said.

The guidebook was a multi-year project. It has highly accurate descriptions of ice climbs, along with GPS location information and driving directions, he said.

The guidebook is available at his website, www.grizguides.com. He has four other titles for Pennsylvania: “Mountain Biking Pennsylvania” (Falcon Press), “Mountain Biking Central PA” (out of print), “Mountain Biking Rothrock State Forest” and “Mountain Biking Bald Eagle State Forest.”


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