Friday, January 18, 2013

Ice Climbing: I love it because I kind of hate it

Power Puff Girls, circa 2001
Typical college kids, we woke up bleary eyed November 1, 2001, after one of the infamous Ravin’ and Misbehavin’ Halloween parties in Dover, New Hampshire. Bayard and Josh were psyched to go up north for their first ice climbing day of the season and dragged me along for my first day of ice climbing ever.
I can’t remember how we procured gear for me or how Marc Chauvin ended up joining our motley crew. I do remember following that first pitch up Standard Route on Frankenstein Cliff. It was 500 feet of pure slush and both hands were soaked after my first two swings. My feet were buried at least 6 inches with every kick. Still, we climbed to the top. We laughed and suffered and laughed some more. It was weird, uncomfortable and memorable. I was *not* hooked on ice climbing afterwards. And that has kind of been my relationship with ice climbing ever since.
The contrariness abounds in this sport: How cumbersome it feels to wear boots and crampons the first few times out, and thus how liberating it is to transition into rock climbing again in spring; How miserably cold and then hot we often get several times over one ice climbing day; How terrible the screaming barfies feel but amazing for those moments after they subside.
Marc, Bayard and Josh, Frankenstein, 2001
I’ve learned to love ice climbing because I live in New Hampshire and it’s what people do. Winter is long and the ice is good. I do treasure 'hero ice' days when I can lead all day with no fear…and soloing long easy gullies deep in the mountains…and the extraordinary fall or spring conditions that allow for a link of Cannon’s Black Dike followed by sport pitches at Rumney in a day. Catching up with old friends at the plethora of ice climbing festivals each December through February and teaching newbies little tricks to make the silly sport just a little more tolerable and fun and safe is actually kind of a fun way to spend those long winter weekends. 
Still, it's funny to me to spend time at a sport I am not entirely passionate about. But I guess it is not my only love-hate relationship. I never know if my dread in anticipation of black fly season in New Hampshire or my joy at its end is a more strong emotion. And although I certainly complain about the humid nastiness of July here, I also might just love my little summer swimming holes more than life itself.
As I settle into my 30’s I am learning that life is defined by that contrariety. Think of your complex feelings about your career, creative endeavors, family and closest friends. They are certainly not perfect relationships, and probably sometimes frustrating, confusing and downright difficult. But what would life be without them? Ice climbing is that to me. The more I do it the more I realize I love it because I just kind of hate it, and that's ok. 


Micah said...

I love the beauty that the ice creates and the uniqueness of the routes from year to year, weather conditions to weather conditions. I love the times I get out because they are so rare as my partner pool from rock climbing quickly whittles down to counting on one hand the people that would be willing to try ice climbing as they don't usually climb ice at all. Alas, as I get older, my hands start to get colder faster.

Anonymous said...

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