Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30, 2010: Ice Climbing Is Hard

(This is the third entry I posted today, so make sure you read the April 28th and 29th posts, below, first.)

Today was a day of unexpected discoveries.

For starters, I discovered that when you're in a hostel in the late morning after everyone has left, and the reception has closed up so that the staffer can clean the entire hostel, it's a boring place.

I also discovered that a quiet mountain town turns into an overcrowded nightmare when a major international dirt bike mountain trials event takes place, and all the parking spots are used up and the streets jammed with traffic.

Most directly related to my trip though, I learned that ice climbing is a lot harder than it looks. While I'm sure no one has ever thought that ice climbing looked easy, it is far more technical than you can even imagine.

I have been climbing for six years, and as such I would have thought that I could have used some of those skills on the ice. To be certain, I was better off than the other student taking the course who obviously had no climbing experience whatsoever. That said, I found it rather difficult to carry over many of my rock climbing skills since I was constantly trying to get my cramp-ons or axes to stick in the ice, which took more or less all of my concentration.

Part of my under-estimation of ice climbing's came because a) when I think that swinging/kicking a sharp, heavy metal object at a sheet of ice, I expect it would result in the tip sticking in at least somewhat, and b) when I watch videos of expert ice climbers easily standing on the tips of their cramp-ons I think "it must be simple". However, what typically happens is that if the tip of the cramp-on or axe does not hit the right density of ice, at exactly the right angle, whatever it is that I tried to stick in to the ice will just bounce off and then I come falling down.

That said, I was able to make it up to the top of every 45 foot high ice wall we attempted, albeit not very gracefully. Embarrassingly, I estimate that I broke every single rule of efficient climbing form I've learned and taught as a rock climbing instructor, but it was definitely a blast, and something I would love to do again should the opportunity arise (I can hear my mother praying I change my mind as she reads this).

Other than the ice climbing though, today was rather uneventful. I consciously decided to take it easy and rest my battered legs in preparation for a 22 km "fell race" (mountain running race) tomorrow, and I don't regret it. With that though, my time in Fort William has come to an end. While this area is definitely beautiful, there are way too many tourists here now and so I will not be sad to say good-bye tomorrow morning.

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