ADK Ice Day 2 – Excuse me! Has anyone seen my balls?

Having had a challenging but manageable day yesterday, we stepped it up a gear today. We’re both on the steep bit of the learning curve with ice climbing so we didn’t really know what we were capable of, but we both found out where are limits are today.

Krista found where her tolerance for fresh air runs out, at the start of the 2nd pitch of Chouinard’s Gully, 200 or so feet above Chapel Pond. We mutually agreed that setting off up the second pitch might be a bit too much for our 2nd day on ice, so we rappelled down (something Krista’s never done before and I haven’t done since I was about 10) and headed off into the canyon to find something a bit less airy. Considering that most of our climbing back home is done indoors, within 40 feet of a nice cushioned floor, and doesn’t involve having any sharp implements strapped to you, this morning’s effort was quite adventurous enough for now thanks!

It’s hard to say *exactly* where I ran out of bottle today, as I had quite a number of sketchy moments which combined to leave my nerves more frayed than an well-chewed dog toy. It’s only now that I’m back at the Lodge, in clean clothes, with a beer in my hand that I can start to think rationally about it. My first couple of laps of Lion’s On The Beach (WI4-, 80 feet) were fairly tidy, as was Krista’s lap. My 3rd attempt, up a thinner line, didn’t go so well. First one set of front-points sheared out, then the other. Then, just as I was frantically trying to kick a foot back in, one of my ice tools came loose (hardly surprising with 220lbs swinging on it). The end result was yours truly hanging by one arm, 40ish feet in the air, cursing, spraying ice all over the place, and our guide Bill casually muttering “well at least you kept one tool in”. Fucker.

My second “adventure” involved traversing across to the main anchor at the top of the route after removing the last directional ice screw. Fact: I can’t traverse on ice, any more than an elephant can do ballet. More slipping, cursing and “panic bear” poses.

The final “experience” was climbing Hot Shot (WI4-, 60 feet). It’s only 60 feet I told myself, and no harder than we’d climbed before. Frankly, numbers are bollocks. They’re meaningless. When I was climbing over the last bulge to the top-rope anchor, I didn’t care what grade it was, how long it was or what type of protection I had. I was fucking scared. I still can’t decide if the ringing noise was ice screws bouncing off each other on my harness, blood pounding in my ears, or my nerves jangling. Either way, I got up, I cursed, I came down. Job done. A good day’s work. Take us home Bill, it’s BEER TIME!!!

ADK Ice Day 1- Eye-See-Ee in Eh-Dee-Kay

If only every learning experience was this enjoyable…

Due to another larger group going to the ice park, we skipped that and headed to a nearby roadside climb called “Pitchoff Left”. We started out with a review of equipment and some tuition on basic technique near the ground. Once we’d got the hang of swinging tools (and getting them back out again!) and learning to trust the crampon points, Krista tied in and put the theory into practice. For someone who says she doesn’t like heights she shot off with a boatload of confidence, sending a shower of ice-shards all over the place, and was soon on the way back down.

My first lap went pretty smoothly too, so we moved onto a slightly trickier route to stretch us a bit. The thing I noticed is that climbing a steady gradient, even if it’s quite steep, isn’t too hard but getting over bulges requires a bit more technique and a lot of trust in your footwork.

Good ice and perfect weather conditions coupled with a south-facing aspect meant the day was about as balmy as it gets in the Adirondacks in February. There was no risk of getting cold or wet (in fact I got a little sunburn), the ice was soft but solid, and we had the place to ourself so we climbed at our own pace and generally shot the shit in between climbs. Fortunately our guide Bill was very tolerant of foul-mouthed Canadians so Krista’s potty-mouth didn’t land us in trouble.

After lunch we moved a little way along the hill to a different section of ice which longer and steeper but not actually any harder. By this point we’d started discussing options for tomorrow, and the idea of trying a longer multi-pitch climb was gaining favour, so we did a bit of practice with ice screws. If we do the multi-pitch route tomorrow (likely Chouinards’ Gully at Chapel Pond) I’ll be bringing up the rear so need to learn to clean the route by removing intermediate ice screws as we go. It proved to be seriously fiddly, especially with gloves on, but I reckon I’ll manage.

Our next adventure: Ice Climbing in Keene, NY.

A 6 hour drive out of the city and into the Adirondacks. Howard Johnson meal, Blue Moon beer and Comfort Inn = Matt and me chilling in Lake Placid. We are here for the week to try out ice climbing. We have never tried it before. We did have a very mini lesson in front pointing with Barry Blanchard a couple years back and I liked it a lot. With our never ending thirst and imagination for the next adventure we figured we would give this a shot.

We are staying at Rock and River for the next three nights. It’s stunning around here. Three miles off the main road into beautiful scenery, surrounded by trees, mountains, snow and ice. The lodge is awesome and quiet. There is NO phone service which is wonderful but free WiFi (which provides some entertainment). The pictures in the lodge show the love for the outdoors by many enthusiasts. One picture in particular is “in loving memory of Alex Lowe”. If you don’t know who I’m talking about I highly recommend you look up his name and take a good read.

Tomorrow we will do our first day of training. Ice School so to speak. Top roping of course. We have our own personal guide who will teach us the ropes (literally). Thursday’s itinerary will all depend on how we do tomorrow. I have a nervous excitement going on and I am really hoping that my fear of heights takes a back seat. The music nut in me always tends to pick out some great tunes for a trip which will undoubtedly remind me of the adventure months down the road. My pick this adventure? Mr. Tom Petty. Into the great wide open 🙂 Can’t help it! You gotta admit… great tune. Wish us luck.