Last weekend I embarked on a little New Hampshire adventure. Part 1: Ice Climbing. Part 2: Hike/snowboard down Mt. Washington.
Ice climbing is something that I have always wanted to try out. Growing up in NH I had ample opportunities to go rock climbing and have enjoyed it over the years. As a camp director at a large summer camp I spent many hours perfecting my belaying skills helping campers learn how to climb. Ice climbing, though, never really presented itself to me and it was not until a friend invited me on a trip that I was finally able to try it out!
The day started early up in North Conway, NH. We met our guide, a young, yet seasoned climber, who geared us up for the day.
Their little gear room had everything you would ever need for a day out in the notch. Specialized crampons, ice axes, ropes, harnesses, ice screws, helmets, and alpine hiking boots. We quickly found our appropriate sizes and packed all of our borrowed gear for the day.
Our climbing location was only about 20 minutes from North Conway, just before Wildcat Mountain on route 16. The parking lot was an easily missed turn off and was devoid of any other cars besides ours. It was a gorgeous day as we set off from the lot.
This really cool walking bridge crossed a little river adjacent to the road.
After the bridge it was a nice hike along the banks of the river and then up for about half a mile to a spot called “The Amphitheater”. This was a massive cliff face entirely covered in light blue ice.
We watched as he scaled the ice cliff, inserting ice screws along the way for safety. Every step of the way he was teaching us the best tactics to safely and efficiently climb utilizing the massive crampons on our feet and the curved ice axes in our hands. He made it look way too easy…we found out quickly – and then again and again for the next eight hours – that ice climbing was not easy at all!
This is how it worked for the day. The four of us rotated through different faces of the ice while belaying or climbing. While on belay, we were safe to climb and, sometimes, fall, without getting hurt.
I have to admit that one embarrassing event happened to me during the day. A veteran ice climber will use his/her legs far more than his/her arms. I was relying almost entirely on swinging the axes and pulling myself up, barely using my legs to push. Nearly at the peak of the most difficult ice face of the day, I felt my arms getting weak. Barely able to swing the ice axes, I eventually lost my grip on the one in my left hand. I hung for a few seconds by my right arm, frantically trying to land my crampons in a secure space and recover before totally losing my grip. Alas, it was not to be. I felt my right hand slip from the ax and I fell, putting all of my weight onto the rope and hanging there like a puppet on a string. My belayer lowered me to the ground but before I could take myself off the rope someone managed to capture a picture of me at the bottom, ice axes still securely affixed to the ice above.
Ice climbing was fun. I cannot wait to try it again.
Part 2 coming soon; hiking and boarding on Mt. Washington.