Monday, January 9, 2012

Sunset, Axes & Ice

When the skiing has consistently been icy, there is only one thing left to do...

Go Ice Climbing!!


As we precariously parked our car on the side of the road, we headed up and into the wilderness. To the uninformed, it might look as though we were out on some kind of strange adventure, but the best ice climbing in Vermont is usally found via some of the most akward access points and today was certainly no exception.

Being the first climb of the year - and me being a general wuss when it comes to climbing - we chose to top belay. Good thing, because I spent most of the way down clearing brush and halfhazard twigs from the climb - including some deadly branches, some frozen as perfect daggers pointing upward toward the falling climber.

Then I was at the bottom of the climb, looking up and thousands of doubts started to infilitrate my mind. Would I make it this year? Would I be good enough to get up this flow? I shook my head, shaking out all the bad thoughts and focused on one in particular: wrists.

Just a flick of the wrist quickly became my mantra as I slowly made my way up the climb. Click, Click, Thunk. As I knew my axe was solidly in the ice, I started looking for my next throw, slowly dragging myself up the flow. My forearms were quickly exhausted, both from a combination of lack of use and being constantly above my heart. But I was gonna muscle through this climb....Whoah, Ahhhhhh!

And then there I was, sitting in my harness, hanging by a rope and looking up at my right axe solidly in the ice, oh about five feet above me. What?! How was I ever going to get back up there using one axe when I could barely make it with two? Oh. man, the worst that could happen would be to get lowered to the bottom and have to walk up to the top. How humiliating.

But wait - I have feet! No wonder my arms were so tired. I was so focused on making small movements with my axe, that I had totally forgotten to stand on my feet. Awesome. That makes anyone feel good. Now I was back to having three points of contact with the ice at all times. From my crouch, I could easily stand p and grab that high axe. I was refocused and I was saved!

As I kept moving through to the crux - which in this case, wasn't actually steep, just involved maneuvering the rope around a wonderful branch section that blocked my entire climb. I took a minute to stnad on my own two feet, calling for slack and theI had the bright idea to distract myself by looking around at the view...only to notice a lovely pile of rocks awaiting me at the bottom. No question about what would happen if the rope system failed.

But I just had to get to the top, I just had to. I took a few deep breaths, gathered my thoughts and stood up. First the right axe, step one, step two. Now stand, then the left axe. It was akward and definitely not the speediest ascent, but I made it - and was actually starting to feel like a climber - in my own mind, of course.

Turning on our headlamps, we each made a few more trips down & up the ice. This was our sanctuary. No one would be wandeering by, except the deer and beaver that had obviously made this place their home. I took in some more slack as Aaron made a big move this time...At the top of the climb it was just me and Vespi, and we could see The light from Aaron's headlamp looking around and searching for the route, but up top, it was just the two of us.

And then it was over. My arms were shot and my body was just plain exhausted as we followed Vespi out of the woods and back to the car. We sat in silence as we traveled home, amazed at the wonder of climbing and ice and finding our way through the darkness toward no goals, but only toward more adventure.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,
FemaleSkiBum

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