Ice – It’s Back

Ice climbing gear waiting to be used

This summer I developed a new habit. Each time I sat down at my desk I would glance up to my right. It was a wistful sort of glance, reminding me of what I could not have. Ice. On the wall beside my desk hang a pair of Grivel ice tools. Every time I sat down they reminded me that there was no ice to climb. Today I broke that habit.

The drive to Badrock Canyon didn’t take long. A short walk brought us to the base of the ice, thin, wet, barely formed, but yet very real and entirely climbable. There is a certain challenge climbing half formed ice. The pillars we climbed hardly reached the ground, their connection to the stalagmites below was tenuous at best. A solid kick would have severed the connection, rendering them unclimbable. Even the gentlest of crampon and tool placements flexed the pillar. Other ice formed delicate hanging curtains which broke off when climbed upon. In many places the ice stretched thin, like skin covering the rocky bones of the gaunt cliff. Climbing required a sequence of careful movements, gentle tool placements, meticulous foot work. Figuring out how to get up without bringing the ice down proved demanding.

In the end, Dane and I each climbed three times, taking a different approach on each ascent, creeping cautiously over thin spots, charging up the thicker sections, sometimes keeping to the edge, sometimes traversing back and forth.

My favorite aspect of ice climbing is the nature of the medium itself. Ice is ever changing. Whether soft or brittle, wet or dry, thin or thick, ice always poses unique climbing challenges and allows for unique solutions. Working out these solutions is a captivating pursuit.

Dane's first climb of the season. Badrock Canyon, Dec. 2011

First Climb of the Season

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