I'm in the process of dropping the small fortune into Ice Gear, and now I'm just wondering where to start? What routes are a good place to learn the basics and how will I know how far along the ice is? Any other advice?
For me, learn the basic is the first question. I think that learning to use your crampon whitout ice axe is very important. if you climb 5.10 in rock, you will be able to climb a grade IV. but if you know the basic technique iwith crampon it is better. There are the french technique and the german technique. Each of them have there limits and interest in many situation. If yor calves are burn, you can rest even in a grade 5 if you look carefully at the ice. after a day of practice i climbed a grade IV on top rope very easily.
After I will suggest to climb with just one ice tool. particularly if you use your only ice axe over your head and outside the shoulder you use. You will practice balance. so, if your right ice axe fail, you will be able to stay on blance with two good crampon and your left ice tool.
after, I will climb in body X position
finally, I will learn alternative ice tool movement.
The other step is to climb grad VI.
Note that you are not going to climb hard, but your are going to climb safe. I use those basic technique to climb la pomme d'or. I don't gave courses. I write this just for safety.