Wednesday, February 18

First Ice Fix

Marni had Monday off from school and since she has both school and grad class on my actual birthday, we spent Monday as my pseudo birthday activity day instead. I was pretty surprised but quite happy that she offered to belay me and take me ice climbing! Since there was a little bit of nearby ice in Clear Creek Canyon we got some late breakfast and headed off to figure out where it was.Me gearing up.
There was another group of 3 already on the ice when we arrived but luckily they were very nice and didn't mind if I setup another top rope. I even got an "Ice screws 101 lesson" at the base of the climb which was cool.
I hiked around back and setup my top rope, throwing it into the trees (ooops) to avoid everyone below me. The rappel down was 3 distinct steps however so it was easy to straighten out my mess. Here you can get a little sense of scale of the lowest and largest of the 3 steps.
Marni was having a lot of fun with the camera and got some really nice pictures of me. Thanks babe!
The view from behind an ice curtain.
Coming off one of many rappels of the day. A 60m rope was just long enough to toprope the lower pitch of Coors Lite as long as you extend the anchors with some long slings.
My tools in pretty soft plastic ice. Good for a first day. There had been a lot of traffic so you could hook your way up most of the time without having to swing.
Climb up, rap down. Repeat until you figure out what the hell you're doing.
Ice does make for some cool pictures. Can't wait to get out to Vail or Ouray.
I did about 6 laps on the wall, gradually getting more and more comfortable. Swinging the tools was pretty much like I imagined it would be and I had the most fun just hooking interesting features. Getting the hang of kicking my toes in properly took a little getting used to but by the end of the day I was getting it and at least my calves never bothered me so I must not have been doing too terribly.

Generally falling is not recommended on ice as your tools and pons are pretty sharp. I didn't fall all day but I did have a few minor slips when I blew my front points or unweighted a hooked tool improperly. I was always able to catch myself without weighting the rope though. Sadly the only time I put my crampons through my pants leg was stepping higher on my first couple laps. Oooops. Oh well, they're small patchable holes, sorry Jessie!
By later in the afternoon the ice was starting to get pretty wet soo I decided that was enough. I didn't want to destroy anything for other climbers and I was able to climb the most vertical section of each step easily. My last lap I tried some mixed climbing on the rock to the right of the ice and that was a lot of fun too. I felt pretty comfortable on the tools, mostly it will take getting used to the crampons on my feet I think and generally a lot of practice.
All and all it was an awesome day. So many people seem to think ice climbing is scary and cold and just insane but I really don't feel that way. With proper gear, clothing, a little (or a lot in my case...) of instructional reading before hand it can be a lot of fun, at least on easy climbs like this. Sure you should take it seriously from a safety perspective as you should all things climbing but otherwise it's not such a crazy thing.
Until I get my next fix I'm back to playing in the garage but at least I've finally tried it and had a great time to boot!


Sandblogger said...

Ice is fun and safe...until you start leading big stuff. Then it does take a wee bit of insanity. The first time you get 20 feet from your last screw and slam in another only to discover the ice is really taste it. My favorite is the mixed stuff around vail. Tools are amazing on thin limestone holds...

I have thick gaitors to protect my pants, and my pants have super ballistics on the inside for protection. Still you get the occasional zip, but duct tape patches fix that!


Chris said...

Yea I'm sure the bigger leads are a bit scary but that's true of all harder climbing generally. :)

I need to get some gaiters to guard my pants while I'm learning what the heck I'm doing!

Sandblogger said...

I just find hard rock leads don't necessarily mean bad pro. Usually hard ice leads always do. It's also hard to camp out and place a screw rather than just throwing in a cam or nut.

I love it for the mountaineering aspect mainly. I guess that's why I first started climbng rock too. I miss it alot now that I started this whole biking obsession!

Definitely get some gaitors. Your pants will be trashed in no time!

Marni said...

I had a great time with you. For being a true beginner, you looked really solid and did a great job. Happy early birthday!

Eric said...

hitting things with metal implements is good.

Melis said...

nice dogg, get some!