Ice Climbing In The Dark

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rock climbing is one of my favorite sports; a climber has to balance delicately, search for their holds, and then combine finesse and strength to work their way up the route. Last night, I experienced my first ice climbing training with a group of friends up at Fish Creek Falls from 5-10pm last night. To be honest, I have always been a little scared to try ice climbing because you aren’t actually holding onto the ice; you’re trusting your tools. Also, I never liked the idea of your holds coming off. (This is why I avoid sandstone in the rock climbing world.)

However, ice climbing was more similar to rock climbing than i thought it would be; we still tied a figure “8” knot from our ropes to our harnesses, checked to be sure that everyone was in a safe position, and were generally moving in an upward direction up a challenging face. Differences were that as the belayer, you were feeding a rope with massive mittens on, and as the climber you had to make sure to hang on to your ice picks, both because those are the tools helping you to stay on the wall, and also for the safety of your belayer down below. Instead of yelling “Rock!” when a chunk of the wall falls, you yell “Ice!”. (I asked if I should yell “Extremely sharp falling tool!” should I drop my ice picks, but I was told simply DO NOT drop them.) And instead of getting stuck on a tricky part of a rock climb where you struggle and gasp for breath and cling to the tiny holds that you do have, you simply start swinging your axes, show that ice who’s boss, and make your own holds when you picks are able to dig into the ice.

For those of you that want to try your hand at ice-climbing (in the daylight), give Rocky Mountain Ventures a call. They have great guides, and with a 4 hour trip, you can definitely get multiple climbs in.

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