Wearing plastic mountaineering boots for the first time had a very similar feeling, though I didn’t quite get that same sledding-induced thrill as I carefully negotiated my way across slippery river rocks and high flowing water. My body isn’t quite so quick to heal after minor impacts with rocks, trees, and other people like it was when I was a gumby-like 19year old.
I’m a rock climber and a skier. I’ve snowshoed plenty, scrambled a lot. I’m no badass Lynn Hill or Ingrid Backstrom, but I feel comfortable doing most outdoor activities and felt all these experiences would give me a bit of a leg up on learning to ice climb. This day, however, was a serious ego check. And despite Jason’s incredibly patient and thorough instruction, I spent the day re-learning how to use my body despite any experience I may have. Crampons are not nearly as intuitive as I expected – I still don’t get how to tork my ankles when traversing a slope (it’s seriously unnatural). My rock experience didn’t help me grasp moving on ice and I pumped out almost instantly. I am awed by Jason and his brethren of ice, who climb not only smooth, straight, uncomplicated ice, but anything mixed – how does the brain and body compute that into upward motion?
ChitChitTHWOP! Towards the end of the afternoon, despite tired, overgripping arms, I seemed to be consistently finding purchase in the ice with my tools. My saving grace being a bit of upper body strength (I once won an entirely inconsequential pull-up contest, dontcha know). “Perhaps I’m actually getting this,” I thought as I sipped my rum n’tea for a bit of pre-descent warmth. Standing a little straighter, nose-over-toes, stepping a little more confidently, less tension in my arms gripping the ax, I began to feel like maybe this plastic-crampon-ax-mountain-glacier thing really wasn’t all that hard.
Me, attempting to stem across and find purchase in the ice. Heels down!