ice-climbing

Left one paradise (Hawaii), fast replaced it with another (Colorado).  First ice climb in 2 years ❄

First time using Front Range Climbing Company in Lake George CO.  Have always hired a climbing guide (twice in Alaska, thrice  now in Colorado).  They provide the gear (like all winter sports, crazy expensive) PLUS I tend to push harder knowing that if/when I slip, someone experienced has my back/completely covered on belay.

Easy drive south on I-25 to Colorado Springs.  Exited west on Highway 24.  Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, Divide, Florissant, Lake George.  New roads, new places.  ADDED 3 things to my summer wish list: Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center & the Mueller Marathon (trail race in Mueller State Park/Divide).  If not this year, then 2019 🙂

Met up with climbing guide Dan at Starky’s General Store, then dirt-road travelled another 20 minutes to Elevenmile Canyon.  Been a super mild winter this season, wondering if I’d see ice.

Short half-mile walk thru a local Boy Scout Camp (Camp Alexander), frozen river ice cascaded over Rankin Gulch.  Boots/crampons, Helmet/goggles, Ice axe/tools & harness.  Three different pitches.  Would finish on the middle pitch, large ice lip challenge.

[Left Ro curled up in the Jeep.  Tired pup.  We off-leash hiked an hour before meeting up with Dan.]

 

On Belay.  Belay on.  Climbing.  Climb on.

First pitch (far right): re-familiarized myself with the equipment, easy climb.

Second pitch (far left): less stable ice.  Slipped twice, self-arrested w/ my axe.  No panic, on belay.  Remembered why I LOVE ice climbing.  Polar opposite of road marathoning.  It’s a thinking man’s sport.  Stop, think, select your path.  No set rule – YOUR path, YOUR comfort zone, climb to YOUR personal strengths.

Fast forward 2 hours: Middle pitch, last of the day.

Arms shaking.  Could not pull my body over the lip.  Backed down, hung for 5 minutes.  Attempted again.  Mentally spent, not happening.  Dan asked if I wanted help.  NO! I JUST WANT TO QUIT!  Breathe.  Better human response: WHAT WHAT should I do?  Reach high on your left.  Left foot dug in, right foot scrambling.  Hanging from a poorly placed strike.  I CAN’T DO THIS!  Plant your right axe.  Strike holds but my arm is burning/shaking like crazy.  Pulled off my glove, threw it below.  Cold is gonna propel me/Cold is my friend.  Reached out & struck, reached out & struck again.  Not a graceful finish (pushed up with a knee)…but finish I did.

Dinner in Deckers, overcast & windy, weather’s a changin’.   Sunday FUN-day, Colorado holiday ❤

 

 

Lake George Ice Climb

 

 

Free weekend between Mississippi & Miami marathons – kick back & rest?  That would be a NO.  Winter time in Colorado is prime time for outdoor activities.  Purchased a Groupon for Ash & Tom at Christmas for ice climbing, couldn’t help but tag along.

Was told it’s harder to climb in Colorado because our ice is river water, not glacier ice like in Alaska.  Axe & crampons stick easier in glacier ice – river ice chips so important to stay on belay (rope) should you pop off.

2 hour drive to Colorado Springs (love the Springs), then a short quarter mile hike to Cheyenne Canyon with our guide Andrew (a scrawny rock climber – weighed maybe a buck ten).  Had to compete for wall space with a local climbing group – so actually started off on the intermediate wall.  Roped up, kicked in my crampons & struck a few blows before I found rhythm (muscle memory – hadn’t climbed since Matanuska, day before my Alaska marathon).

Forgot how much I LOVE ice climbing – it’s a thinking man’s sport.  Yeah, there’s physical involved but LOVE picking my route – it’s unique to each climber.  Do I use an existing hit (to place my axe)?  Go right, go left – where is the better/thicker ice?  How far can I reach? Strike high, using that arm (& forward motion) to propel the body UP, kick in again with your crampon.

Struggled up the ice lip but ultimately, SUCCESS!  LOVE LOVE LOVE ice climbing!

Ash & Tom took their try at the wall.  Not fair their first climb would be on an intermediate wall – no training, little instruction.  Luckily, an easier tie soon opened – more ice, less vertical.  Lot more fun – both summited, good memories 🙂

We paid for a half day so I took in 2 more verticals before Ash & Tom worked belay and let Andrew climb.

Felt good to be in the mountains.  Perfect conditions – sunshine, no wind.  Crazy addictive sport.  Can see myself hitting it regularly once my running schedule frees next year.  So much competition for time – cross country skiing, snow shoeing, another 14er winter summit, ice climbing…& only December to April to get it all in.  LOVE LOVE my Colorado life!

 

Although I travelled to Alaska to fulfill my goal to run a full marathon, when planning the trip it was ice climbing I found myself all excited about.  Woke early and hit the road – destination: Matanuska Glacier near Chickaloon, AK.

Matanuska Glacier is a valley glacier in the US state of Alaska. At 27 miles (43 km) long by 4 miles (6.4 km) wide, it is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States. Its terminus is the source of the Matanuska River. It lies near the Glenn Highway about 100 miles (160 km) north-east of Anchorage. Matanuska Glacier flows about 1 foot (30 cm) per day.

Thought I was super smart bringing my GPS (Garmin) to navigate across Alaska.  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas – but no Alaska.  Who knew?  Plan B – used the rental car map which took me as far as Eagle River (approx 20 minutes east of Anchorage).  From there I watched for road signs.  And in Palmer, I used my iPhone maps app to re-position on Old Glenn Highway heading northeast – not Glen Highway heading northwest to Wasilla (home of Sarah Palin – and no, I could not see Russia :)).

No traffic, no humans, hit or miss cell reception, one moose.

Arrived almost an hour early (thank you midnight sun for the early wake-up call), and geared up.  Shared the day with Mason, Tonya & Gage from Seattle, Mark from Alaska, and Chris (our guide).

The landscape mirrored walking the moon’s surface until we reached Matanuska Glacier.  Gray silt permafrost merged vivid turquoise blue – quite the contrast.  Amazing, beautiful, breathtaking!

Listened for a voiced ‘belay on’ – then one after another we climbed.

Belaying refers to a variety of techniques climbers use to exert friction on a climbing rope so that a falling climber does not fall very far.  Climbers should wait for a verbal confirmation from the belayer that he is ready to begin.  In the US, usually the climber asks, “On belay?” or “Belay?” and wait for the belayer to reply “Belay on.”

Will 1000% do this again – LOVE LOVE this sport!

Boots, gloves, ropes, crampons – my kinda gear used in my kinda weather.  River ice (what we have in Colorado) is not as stable as glacial ice but still gonna climb this winter.  I’m hooked – LOVED it!

 

 

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