Over the last two years, I’ve been on a hiatus of sorts from ice climbing. Prior to that, I was vigorously pursuing a goal to tick all the major flows in Redstone, and having come within a few routes of accomplishing it, my passion dissipated. Like many, I’ve also struggled with the objective danger of the pursuit, and the reality that’s often difficult to safely push your limits, as you can in rock climbing.
In mid-November, a friend and I decided to check out an early season flow to see if it was climbable. To our surprise, the ice was in good shape, even offering a few solid “thunks” normally reserved for fatter ice later in the year. Ascending the pitch of moderate ice, it hit me that if for no other reason, I enjoy getting out on ice for the adventure of it all. Being out in the cold, staying warm, having your systems dialed, these things are all part of the climbing game year round to some extent, but they become magnified in the winter when you are hanging out on frozen water falls. And there’s a certain satisfaction that comes when you can spend a full day out climbing in winter conditions and be comfortable the entire time. People often deride ice climbing, saying they don’t enjoy it because they are either hot and sweaty or freezing cold. I usually just smile, knowing they simply haven’t figured it all out yet.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that to keep ice climbing safe, I need to be in complete control, which means staying far from the edge of what I’m capable of climbing. In spite of this detractor, the aesthetics and adventure still draw me in. Pondering the intricacies of a flow of ice, looking for best place to set my picks, reveling in the exploration of cliffs and gullies that in the summer would offer nothing to rock climbers. These are things that will keep the fire alive. Given the option, I’d probably choose to be basking in the sun on some steep rock, but with good ice so close to home, it’s too strong of a draw to resist the beauty of dancing up a flow of water, frozen in time for our enjoyment, and then gone tomorrow, left only as a memory for us to ponder.