Ludia Kochan is a 31-year old Registered Nurse, photographer, and avid snowboarder and rock climber who currently lives in Southern California. I recently sat down with this Hawaiian native and had a Q&A session, in which we talked about her newfound hobby of ice climbing, the extreme sport of climbing inclined ice formations such as glaciers, frozen water falls or the blocks of ice topping the mountains.
Flipside Fresh: How long have you been ice climbing?
Ludia Kochan: My first time was at the Ouray Ice Climbing Festival this year.
FF: How did you get into it?
LK: I saw beautiful pictures I’d never seen before of people ice climbing, and ever since then, that’s what I wanted to do.
FF: Any advice for people interested in getting into ice climbing?
LK: My advice would be to look into any of the ice climbing festivals. There’s a few of them out there. That would be the cheapest way to get a guide and to teach you the basics and fundamentals of ice climbing. You can also demo ice climbing gear, which is in itself really expensive. For example, the boots that I wore were $600 alone. You need boots, you need crampons, you need ice tools, and the gear that you have to wear alone is expensive – the down jackets, the different layers you have to get, the rope, the harness. All that is expensive. But at the ice climbing festival, all the different high-end brands will come, and you’ll be able to demo all their gear.
FF: You mentioned some of the gear needed in this sport. Can you tell us more about that, as well as some good places to buy this gear?
LK: First of all, you’ll need a harness, a rope, your ice tools, an ice climbing boot, your crampons, and a helmet. These are your basic tools that you will need, but these are for beginners that will not be climbing on their own. When you’re completely out in the wilderness climbing on your own, you’re gonna need a whole lot more gear, and it’s gonna get a whole lot more expensive because you’re gonna need the nuts, bolts, and all these different tools to anchor in to the actual ice. So, the best way to do it, like I said, would be to go to the ice climbing festival because all the different name brands will be there, with their tents and their gear, and you can talk to them – talk about the different gears and qualities, and you can refer to your guide who will give you a lot of direction in which way to go and why one tool is better than another. For example, your ice tools, there are so many different shapes and sizes of your ice tools, so you wouldn’t even know which one to buy. You’d really need to talk to an expert about it.
FF: What did you do to prepare for that trip (training), and what kind of preparation have you done to prepare yourself physically and mentally for this sport in general, such as exercise routines, other sports, diets?
LK: We do a lot of rock climbing (my husband and our partner, Jason), and it’s very similar in the sense that you need to know your fundamentals of your rope, your gear…You’re using the same type of fundamentals. So, I was prepared in that sense. I’m used to rope work and the lingo with the whole climbing experience.
FF: So would you say that somebody who wants to get into ice climbing would need a background in rock climbing?
LK: No, absolutely not. For example, at these ice climbing festivals, there were some people who’d never rock climbed in their life or who’d never done anything (extreme) in their life! And they just get out there and go for it. So, it really just depends on your mental preparedness. Because we’d be rock climbing, I’m used to the height, the X-Factor. Don’t get me wrong – when I first started rock climbing, I was extremely afraid of heights! I didn’t want to let go of the rope. I didn’t know if the rope was gonna protect my life, but you have to learn to trust your gear, your placements, your anchors. If you don’t, that’s gonna loom over your head, and that stress could also cause you to fall.
FF: So, you said you’d been to Ouray, Colorado for ice climbing. What other places would you would like to explore?
LK: Oh, I would love to go anywhere where there’s ice, basically! Alaska, Canada…
FF: What feelings and emotions go through you as you make that climb up the ice?
LK: To me, I thought it was a lot harder than it looks because the professionals that go before you (the guides) make it look so easy. I thought I’d be scared the first time I did it, but actually your mind is so involved in the actual climb, that you don’t think about being scared.
FF: In your opinion, what are the best and worst parts about the sport of ice climbing?
LK: Well, it’s a sport where you get to be outdoors. Yeah I get cold easily, but I love being in the outdoors, and being out there in the wilderness – it’s awesome! You get to enjoy the outdoors and take beautiful pictures. It’s such a peaceful environment, and that’s what I love about ice climbing.
FF: What other exhilarating sports do you do?
LK: Besides rock climbing? I snowboard. When I moved from Hawaii to Las Vegas and picked up a snowboard, I never let it go…I never put it down.
FF: Did you just teach yourself, or did you take lessons?
LK: I taught myself and went with friends who were better than me. I think that’s really important because your expectations are a lot higher. If you’re constantly going with someone who’s also learning, it’s harder to grow because your limit is a lot lower than if you went with someone who’s a professional. Their limit for you is a lot higher, and you’re able to see “Oh, that’s what that’s supposed to look like!”
FF: It kind of sets the bar for something for you to achieve.
LK: Exactly! And it’s also about determination and time, and how much effort you’re willing to put into a sport. For example, when I first started snowboarding, I went three or four times a week. There’s only one mountain – Mount Charleston. It’s a really small mountain and is a good mountain for beginners to learn on in Vegas.
FF: So, you're about to go on an ice-climbing trip. What is the one thing you won't leave home without?
LK: My camera.
FF: Oh, cuz you also do photography, right? How long have you been doing this for?
LK: Well, I see photography as my hobby, and I’ve been doing it for maybe a couple years now, but more seriously within the last year.
FF: Are you self-taught, or have you taken classes?
LK: No classes yet. Everything is self-taught. I do a lot of research and read a lot of photography magazines. It’s basically just about research. You know the phrase, “Google it?” I use and have used that!
FF: Didn’t the Los Angeles Times feature one of your photographs on their website?
LK: They did. It was an amateur photography contest. You submitted your photo about your summer experience, and out of 1,500 photos submitted, my picture got picked as #4. It was printed in the Sunday Times, which was really amazing to me because as a photographer, your work is really out there for people to see.
FF: How do you balance being a nurse, photographer, wife, and friend with your sports hobbies?
LK: My work schedule allows me to have so much time off, and I got really lucky that I found someone who can share and enjoy every experience with me. We started in these hobbies together and also grew in our experiences together.
FF: You document your experiences and trips (climbing, snowboarding, etc.) by taking very beautiful pictures and videos, as seen here on the Flipside Fresh website. Where else can we see your photography?
LK: I started a picture blog. It’s called “Us + 2 malte-poos” at ljkochan.wordpress.com, and you can follow me there!
FF: Great! Thanks, Ludia! It was fun interviewing you, and hopefully people who are reading this will be motivated enough to at least research the next ice climbing festival or just look at ice climbing pictures.
LK: You’re welcome!
FF: And by the way Ludia, you just made our FRESH LIST!!
(Picture that Ludia took that placed her 4th in the Amateur Photography contest with the L.A. Times)
 Hassam (2013). Ice climbing equipment and techniques. http://hassam.hubpages.com/hub/Ice-Climbing-Equipment-And-Techniques