Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Ice claws

Julie on Portage Lake. (1.15.11)

I'm not ashamed to admit it. Ice scares me. It can be an amazing riding surface, and it sometimes carries winter bikers to stunning places, but that stuff creaks, pops and groans, all of which serve as reminders that it can break. And when that happens, especially in remote places, you can die.

The best you can hope for is a whole heap of hypothermic misery as you get out of your wet clothing and build a fire—but that’s only if you manage to get out of the water. So I set up a little one-man assembly line last weekend and started making ice claws for an upcoming trip on frozen rivers. I should have done this a long time ago.

These self-rescue devices may not be pretty, and they have some minor impalement potential during a dry-land crash, but they’re cheap and easy to make. And if you ever have to use them, they could be priceless.

If you ride on ice, check out these instructions and videos on making and using ice claws. The information is from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesotans have a lot of experience with ice, given that the state has cold winters and bills itself as "The Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

That has prompted Alaskans to brag that we have 10,000 unnamed lakes. People here routinely travel over frozen lakes and rivers on skates, skis, bikes, snowmachines and in cars and trucks.

Which raises the question ... why doesn’t Alaska have an ice-safety website?

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