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Ice Climbing with the Deviants.....
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katydid


Jan 19, 2003, 4:45 PM
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Ice Climbing with the Deviants.....
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...or How to Create a Via Ferrata With Ice Tools

I am not a fan of alpine starts. I'm more of a crack-of-noon kind of girl. So when I found myself waking up at 5 in the morning to go ice climbing for the first time, I knew I was pretty desperate to get outside.

This whole ice climbing thing started last fall, when we were freezing our fingers off on the Niagara Escarpment limestone. While a group of us were standing around trying to get the feeling back into our hands between climbs, Grant (darkside) suggested that we try ice climbing this winter. In our chilled and befuddled state, Moey and I agreed that this sounded like a Smart Idea.

A couple of months passed and winter finally showed up. I'd said I'd give this ice thing a whirl, and I never back down on a dare, even a self-imposed one. (Anyone who knows me in person can attest that I have the scars to prove it.) So one day when I noticed Grant was online I dropped him a PM and reminded him of his offer to teach me and Mo to ice climb. We set a date and started to get organized.

The local climbing shop rents ice climbing gear, so I called them to set up a rental. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, they discontinued that particular rental program for liability reasons. This was the start of the “butterflies” phase for me. Discontinued because of liability? What was I getting myself into?

Luckily Mountain Equipment Co-op is willing to let its members do foolhardy things at a low rate, so I ended up renting gear from them. I was dying of nerves the whole time I drove into Toronto to pick everything up. Had I gone too far? Was I committing suicide? I'd worked myself up to the verge of puking by the time I arrived at MEC.

The puking feeling dissipated when I saw the lovely toys the nice people at MEC were willing to rent to me. Mmmmm ... sharp, pointy, and jingly. Everything a girl could dream of. And my VISA had room for the $300 (CDN) deposit, so I even got to toss them in the station wagon and drive home with them. I didn't even have to climb anything at this point. I am a gear head, and I was in love with the idea of ice climbing the moment I had a set of ice tools in my hands.

We assembled in the parking area at Tiffany Falls Conservation Area (outside Ancaster, Ontario) at 9 AM to fill out liability waiver forms (which essentially read “I know this is stupid, but I want to do it anyway”). That done, we started the approach down a frozen creek toward the Falls.

Having grown up in an area where two inches of snow shut the entire city down, I had never seen a frozen waterfall in anything but a photograph. So when we rounded the bend and were greeted with thousands of frozen icicles cascading to the ground, I became an ice climber right then and there. Never mind that I had never worn crampons before. Never mind that I hate the cold. The majesty of this little alcove full of ice was enough to keep me out there all day making a fool of myself.

And make a fool of myself I did. But I had a damn good time doing it. I didn't complete a single route. My arms got pumped out after about 10-15 feet, on average. I whacked myself in the chin with a hammer trying to pull it back out of the ice. My feet sketched all over the place because I was having so much trouble getting the hang of frontpointing. I ripped my pants with my crampons. I creamed my knees against the ice, which strangely enough, doesn't give when you bang yourself into it. And my crowning achievement? The Ice Tool Via Ferrata.

Now, this isn't your average metal-ladder-going-up-a-rock-face-scenario. Because when I make a fool of myself, I do it BIG.

You see, I have very small hands and wrists. Small enough that the leashes that come with the tools I'd rented didn't cinch up enough to stay firmly attached. Which meant that when I fell, my right hand slipped out of the leash and I lost a tool. So the guys told me how to climb up with a single tool and retrieve the one that was now 5 feet above my head. I tried. It didn't work. Someone gave me one of their tools to climb up to it. So I tightened down the leash as far as it would go, and started back up. And slipped. And lost their tool about two feet below the one I'd already dropped.

When I get frustrated I start laughing, which, as you probably know, doesn't help you climb. So there I was, hanging on the rope, laughing my head off and inwardly kicking the crap out of myself. It didn't help that I had ten people on the ground laughing ... well, I'm not sure whether it was at or with me. Probably a little of both. The big suggestion at this point was that I was trying to fix tools all the way up the climb – hence the Ice Tool Via Ferrata.

Needless to say, no-one else wanted to pass me up any of their expensive gear just so I could hang it on a waterfall, so someone freed up to where I was, retrieved one of the “displayed” tools from the ice, and passed it back to me. Then I had to go back to get the damn tool that had started all this grief in the first place. I had one person hanging onto my left foot, showing me the angle I needed to use to get my crampon's front points to stick in the ice, one tool in my right hand, and an ice hammer that was still embedded several feet above my head. Eventually I managed to get it back. I'd made about four moves I felt good about, then I found out that the knee has an equivalent of the elbow's funny bone.

The company that day was particularly good – there was much teasing (not all of it aimed at me) and joking around, and people were enjoying each other as much as the climbing. So I hung out, iced my knee (since there was plenty of ice around), and bummed cigarettes off another climber. Eventually I made another attempt on an easier route. I still didn't finish it, but I felt better about what I was doing and started to develop a little more confidence in myself and the equipment that was holding me off the ground (when the rope wasn't). Grant and all his regular ice climbing buddies were incredibly encouraging, patient, and helpful teachers, and went out of their way to give pointers to me and Mo while we tried to figure out what the hell we were doing.

All told, it was a lovely day, capped off by beer and various snacks. When I got home I took a bath, went to bed, and was asleep within minutes. Today I am bruised, sore, and walking around with a silly grin on my face.

I went ice climbing.

And I love it.


moey


Jan 19, 2003, 7:14 PM
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Ice Climbing with the Deviants..... [In reply to]
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  nice report kate! You captured it all so well... now we just need grant to tell us all about that low-angle belly manoeuvering he was trying to teach us!
Wait, that sounds dodgy... hope joe doesn't read this, he'll have a field day!


[ This Message was edited by: moey on 2003-01-20 05:37 ]


climbinganne


Jan 20, 2003, 4:02 AM
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nice kate and mo!!!!

so glad y'all had a great time, i was envious and excited all weekend for you

you could not have found a better guide than grant..he is the nicest most patient person..once at the gunks..he scrambled up the back way of a climb i was on and obviously stuck..i was maybe 50 - 60 feet up..and couldnt make the crux...all of a sudden he appeared beside me and scared the living $#!& out of me..but coached me for what seemed like hours up there!!


marshall84


Jan 20, 2003, 4:23 AM
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What a great story! You're a champ for even trying. I wouldn't get that far. I'm glad you had such a good time.


jen_c


Jan 20, 2003, 7:39 AM
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Sounds like you had an incredible day...I'm so jealous...I really want to get out on ice sometime soon.
Keep it up and I'm sure you will soon be a natural at it!!!


machiavellian


Jan 20, 2003, 10:46 PM
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Good job Kate.


monkeyarm


Jan 20, 2003, 11:50 PM
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HA HA

That sounds almost the exact same story as what happened to a friend of mine on our first time out.


katydid


Jan 21, 2003, 4:34 AM
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Please tell me they don't suck that bad any more. I'd like to think I'm good for more than comic relief, eventually.

k.


darkside


Feb 3, 2003, 3:12 AM
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Erm, I guess this post was a little time coming but I've been getting rather busy with climbing and climbing access matters recently. I should be heading to bed as I just got back from a weekend of ice in the Daks but thought I would feed my other addiction, RC.com.

Kate and Moe were incredibly sporting and both persevered longer than I think I would have (unless I was scaring the snot out of myself on lead ). I thought I had probably scared them both off but despite the burnt arms and flesh wounds, they both want to head out for the full....heading north/hiking over hells half acre/crossing (hopefully) frozen lakes/unknown ice....experience thingy.

Moe, we'll just leave that belly thing alone, why do you think Joe is known as an ice deviant? And I thought I was just showing you girls some tool positions....sheesh!

The girls should be out again this coming weekend and hopefully having a blast again, make the most of it as I head to the Canadian Rockies the following two weekends leaving you to imagine me having one of my epics out there, similar to this last weekend's adventures. Maybe I should tell you about those adventures in ice after climbing. At least I was happy to have made it up Roaring Brook Falls, Choinards Gully, and Weeping Winds this weekend. Three classic Daks lines.


Partner tim


Feb 3, 2003, 4:46 AM
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Roaring brook falls is in? Time for a trip up north...

ps. great write-up Katy. I take it you did wear a helmet and glasses, very good!


[ This Message was edited by: tim on 2003-02-03 05:37 ]


Partner polarwid


Feb 4, 2003, 3:38 PM
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[small]This topic was moved to the Feedback & Trip Reports forum by polarwid[/small]


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