From skiing to ice climbing

When the mother nature kindly treats us by sending a cold wave over the Alps in winter, I easily switch from skis to ice tools. The frozen waterfalls are rather ephemeral and there is no time to lose when ice is there and in condition to climb.

Words by:Minna Riihimaki


I am Minna Riihimaki, Norrona ambassador since 2009, originally from Finland and living in Chamonix, France, since 1994. I am a passionate mountain and outdoor person, and it is this passion that guided me to study and establish my life in the heart of the Alps.
I am also a mother of 2 teenage children, a dental surgeon and a business developer with an MBA diploma. This multi-faceted life balances nicely with my slightly hyperactive character.
I am mainly known as a skier in winter and mountain biker in summer as those used to be my main activities. But the mountains and climate change over time, and therefore I feel like my competencies constantly need to evolve too. In addition to inevitable changes, accessing some remote and unexplored mountain corners requires capacity to cross-over from one practice to another.
Today my garage is filled by gear for ski mountaineering, enduro biking, alpinism, ice climbing, rock climbing and paragliding. Depending on season and weather conditions, any of these activities will bring a smile to my face. I am definitely not the best in any of them, but being strongly polyvalent and motivated, offers endless opportunities to enjoy the nature surrounding us.

My out-of-the-ordinary routine life was shattered in May 2016 when a ski accident destroyed my left knee and leg. After a long recovery with more than 2 years of crutches and 13 surgeries, I am now back to a miraculous level and even excelling at my ever best in some activities like climbing and learned new skills like flying. For achieving this, I owe a huge thank you to the people and brands that have unconditionally supported me through these years.

My out-of-the-ordinary routine life was shattered in May 2016 when a ski accident destroyed my left knee and leg. After a long recovery with more than 2 years of crutches and 13 surgeries,I am now back to a miraculous level.

Minna Riihimaki

Being part of the Norrona team is a true honor for me. Participating to some of the production of world’s greatest technical wear from the concept to creation is an exciting and interesting journey. I feel like promoting Norrona’s products is not just about giving visibility to them, but also about spreading the word on the sustainable and environmental principles and actions behind the entire process and the company. As an ambassador, I love to encounter and share ideas and point of views with people on the terrain. Of course, I also use social media as a communication channel, but nothing compares to a physical exchange of emotions!

Over all these years, my most worn Norrona winter products are the Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro jacket and pant. As a skier, I feel comfortable and protected in the mountains when wearing them. They are durable, simple of conception, efficient and featuring every detail that is demanded from an outer layer. The jacket and pant are also versatile enough to switch from one activity to another.
The winter 2020-21 started in the Alps early with cold nights and enough precipitation to supply ice layers in the waterfalls. In January 2021, some of the ice climbs that haven’t been in condition in the past 10 years, suddenly appeared in their white long dress. It was definitely time to go out for it.
When the temperatures are around -10 degrees Celsius, I wear a woolen one-piece as underlayer and an alpha fleece in the middle for the upper body. On top and as outer layer, the Lofoten Gore-Tex and when belaying, I add a down jacket from Falketind or Trollveggen collection. This is pretty much my basic winter pack when ski mountaineering or climbing, also on the approaches. Waterproof Gore-tex is mandatory when ice climbing, as water is often dripping down from fresh icicles and getting soaking wet is not an option!

Some winter climbs require passages on rock in between the hanging ice columns. This kind of mixed climbing is very demanding and rough on gear. There are plenty of established routes around Chamonix, but some first climbs are still possible when the conditions are aligned. On the 3rd of January, my boyfriend and I opened up 2 new lines in the lower part of the famous Rive droite of Argentiere. It was a cold day, we had heavy backpacks (Falketind 35 L) to carry with only the minimum necessary to wear and eat. The days are short in winter, but we were happily back to the parking just before the night.

 

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