Why I DON’T Ice Climb

Just a fair-weather climber pondering why people enjoy being pummeled with ice shards. posted on

(by Diane Winger)

I thoroughly enjoy ROCK climbing, and have been climbing since the late 80s (that’s the Nineteen Eighties, in case you were wondering). I love the physical challenges, but also relish the sights, sounds, even the smells (yes, granite warmed by the sun has a distinct smell) which are intricately part of the sport. Being outdoors — watching a bird soaring on the breeze below me — feeling the texture of the rock — hearing the river flowing nearby — all these are part of the appeal of rock climbing for me.

Charlie has sometimes declared that ICE climbing is his absolute favorite sport. I don’t doubt it; he commutes to the Ouray Ice Park during climbing season nearly every “work day.” (We’re old. We’re retired. We have the time to do stuff like that)

So, I decided I had to give ice climbing a shot. And I did. I went out with Charlie on six different occasions to four different venues, and gave it a try. There’s even an old videotape probably still in existence of one of my early attempts in which my tears were captured for posterity as I whined and begged that someone other than my own husband be my instructor for the day. (Kind of like giving driving lessons to a family member — it wasn’t pretty).

I remember the first time I went rock climbing. Charlie led me up the 2nd Flatiron in Boulder. At times I was thrilled, but at other times I was petrified. Afterwards, we went for a beer in town somewhere along the Pearl Street Mall, and I remember staring at the Flatirons the whole time, in awe that I had climbed all the way up there! All week long, I thought about that experience, and then asked Charlie to take me out climbing again the following weekend. I enjoyed myself more every time we climbed.

But the opposite was true when it came to ice climbing. I disliked it more each time, and decided that I actually hated it by the sixth outing. We were at the Ouray Ice Park again (no video camera this time), and it was crowded in the School Room area. I was being pummeled with chunks of ice as I belayed — some from Charlie, some from climbers on either side of him. The stream was flowing, so I couldn’t back away from the wall. One large shard hit a friend on her hand as she retrieved something from her pack, bloodying her and causing her thumb to swell almost immediately. The two of us decided to call it quits, look for a clinic in town, or — failing that — just go have a leisurely lunch and window shop. She returned to ice climbing; I did not.

The Ice Park will be opening again soon. Time for me to pull out my cross-country skis!

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