Alpinism | Skyward Mountaineering

By: Skyward Mountaineering  09-12-2011
Keywords: Ice, Climbing, Ice Climbing

Routes like The Terminator, Sea of Vapors and Bird Brain Boulevard are already in! Many are salivating at the chance wipe the dust off and scrape the rust from there ice tools and crampons, which have been in storage since April. One thing I have learned about ice climbing this time of year is that you are often the most tested when you are the least prepared! Climbing ice in the early season is fun and (usually) never dull! Your enthusiasm is high, you’ve been doing pull-ups since August, you’ve spent a week in Indian Creek, and maybe even had a lot of indoor dry tooling sessions.  However, none of this physical training and enthusiasm really “prepares” you for the true riggers of climbing what is likely to be ice in it’s most primitive, aggressive and difficult condition. The mental muscle will get an extremely valuable work out.
Such is the nature of climbing early season ice. While it is fun, easy and necessary to do all the physical prep and training, nothing can adequately prepare you for psychological side of the game like doing it. Ice climbing season often happens in reverse: you get your toughest, most rewarding moments early on and then things progressively get easier and less challenging through the season. This is certainly compounded by the Mob Rules mentality that makes most climbs easier by at least a grade due to the high traffic path-of-least-resistance found on the classics by mid-season. Early, there is no path and who can not attest to the added difficulties encountered when on truly virgin ice. It is extraordinary and often frightful at the same time.
It is often best to temper your enthusiasm with prudence and scale your ambitions back by a grade or so in the early season, keeping in mind that protection is likely to be sparse, less reliable and the grades will feel “real” and “solid.” However, these qualities are gifts that you may not get the rest of the season and are the best things you can have for gaining the experience to do FA’s and real alpine climbs. This is the time of year your mind gets a real work out and it will gain strength as a result. Taking things a bit easy this time of year, but still having a true adventure will allow your mental toughness to develop and help your confidence on more difficult endeavors later on in the season when all the other skills (speed, efficient movement, anchoring, etc.)  are well honed.
This is also a time of year when many routes lack the significant threat of avalanche danger which can be present later on when Winter’s snows really pile up. So, it is a great time to get out and find some neglected, hard to get to routes in the high country. There will be plenty of time to get out on the front country routes in the mid winter, so seek out some longer, moderate (for you) adventures and help stretch that mental muscle.
Just keep in mind when you’re 40 feet out from your last 13 cm screw, scratching your way up some mossy chimney that this is a gift that you may not get again until the spring on a true Alpine Monster!

Keywords: Climbing, Ice, Ice Climbing

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