“Kick a little harder,” he yells from somewhere out of my range of vision. But then I can’t really see anything more than the length of my arms, stretched out grasping a bent handle, water dripping off my fingertips. Whose idea was this anyway?
When my husband first started ice-climbing, I told him he was crazy. Why would anyone in their right mind go out and stick themselves to a chunk of ice in the middle of winter?
I needed to be convinced it was actually fun. I didn’t start with “Crescent Falls”, or “Dry Ice”, or “Captain’s Log.” Nope – I tested fledgling skills on “Shunda Ice” – a.k.a. a man-made ice wall.
Every year, a wall of chicken wire strung beneath two towering spruce trees is slowly covered with a fine stream of water. Drip by drip a thick wall of ice is laid down and the fun begins.
Harness, crampons, ice tools – check, check, check!
A permanent light rope takes the climbing rope up through the fixed anchor at the top of the climb. I put on the crampons – spikes that give supreme traction on ice – and my husband gives them the once-over. He double-checks the harness and helmet. We walk over to the fenced base of the climb. I tie rope to harness.
I approach the wall.
“Climbing,” I yell.
With a guiding voice suggesting a move, I kick the sharp, pointy toes of the crampons straight into the ice, trust the support and reach up to hammer in ice tools – one in each hand.
Trial and error, a little slip caught quickly by the rope, a few rest breaks and suddenly I’m making headway. Cheers erupt from the peanut gallery on the sidelines. With a final lunge I swing for the bronze bell at the top of the climb.
My knees shook, my palms got sweaty, but the euphoria of ringing that bell resounds even now. Who’d have thought that sticking yourself to a chunk of ice in the middle of winter could be so much fun?