Monday, January 27, 2014

Ice Climbing - ACC Ice Review Jan 11/12

With less than optimal snow conditions in the Rockies, what better activity to take up than ice climbing?? We managed to secure a spot on the ACC Ice Review in a beginner group where we met up with some experienced ice climbers who were willing to literally "show us the ropes". We started the day nice and early in the Grassi Lakes parking lot and walked in to the Junkyards climbing area to get our first taste of ice. The approach was amazingly short and within minutes we were strapping on our crampons and gearing up. The guides set up some top ropes for us newbies and basically gave us free reign to try out the tools on a variety of pitches ranging from really easy to getting vertical!
Kyle practicing his technique
Moving into the more challenging terrain
The weather was crazy! On minute it would be so windy that you couldn't see your belay partner and the next it would be dumping snow. Kyle seemed to be on the wall whenever the weather got really bad. At the end of the day we even got some sun!
A particularly nasty squall as Kyle makes his way up
Jenny tackling the steeper ice
Lots of smiles!
We managed to get about 6 climbs in on the Saturday, some of which we tried with only one tool or with no tools to replicate a senario where tools had been dropped. We both really wanted to get on the furthest left route which was the most challenging but by the time it was our turn, we were totally exhausted. The walk back to the trucks seemed much longer on the way out than the way in. Back at the trailer we warmed up with some soup and then headed over to the campground where the other Ice Review groups were camping and having a bit of a post climb party.
Feuerzangenbowle - German mulled wine with a melting sugar cone soaked in rum! Yummy!
The party was awesome. There were huge pots of chili, mulled wine, chips and of course lots of beer! Kyle managed to win the first draw prize of the evening which was pretty awesome, especially because he now has an ice screw to play with, and some almond cereal which we aren't quite sure what to do with... 

The next morning we had a bit of a sleep in and a breakfast of champions - eggs benny! We were camping in the trailer which was probably the best way to do any sort of winter camping. Team sleep in (us) met up with some of the other newbies from the day before (Jake and Liam) at Johnson's Canyon to do some more climbing before braving the treacherous roads home. 
The hike into the canyon was gorgeous
Upon arrival at the upper falls, we had to climb over the guardrail past hordes of astonished tourists that were taking pictures of all the climbers. It was a bit strange being stared at the whole time and I am sure that I ended up in quite a few photos. I felt like a bit of a celebrity.
The upper falls
Tourists galore! (Kyle taking pictures of tourist taking pictures)
We got on the easier climbs first but were soon talked into trying one of the bigger routes that had a top rope. I went first. It was exciting to actually be climbing something a bit steeper and longer than everything that we had been on before! It was pretty exhausting though and I definitely had to take a few breaks to rest my arms.
Half way up and tired already
Almost at the top!
Super stoked to have made it all the way!
Next it was Kyle's turn. He didn't want to let me beat him so he had some good motivation to make it to the top also. Luckily for me, he also needed a rest here and there. I was glad to see that it wasn't just me who found it challenging!
Starting up the icicle 
Closing in on the top
Upon finishing the route, we were informed that we had just climbed a WI5!! Oh man were we stoked! I think that we lucked out that weekend, great weather, awesome ice and a lot of really experienced people willing to help us out. It was a fantastic experience and a really fun way to learn how to ice climb. This is definitely a sport that I could do more of... when the skiing is bad of course!

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