Monday, September 29, 2008
The last time I was out climbing on the Matanuska Glacier was not a good day. It was rainy, cold and windy. My gloves were soaking wet and my fingers were freezing. I remember feeling burnt out on it. It was hard for me to muster up the motivation to get up even the easiest climb. I thought maybe I didn't want to climb anymore.
I climbed waterfall ice a lot last winter so in the spring I decided to take some time off to focus on trail running and biking. I kept turning down invitations to climb rock in the spring because I couldn't fit it into my schedule. I made a conscious decision to not climb at all until September and let people know that so that I would not have keep telling them, "Well, maybe next week."
Friday was my first day back to climbing since April. I helped teach a beginner course in the MCA Ice Climbing Festival making this my 4th festival. The first year I was a novice student. Then after climbing all winter and summer I moved up to advanced student. Last year I was an assistant instructor and this year I was a co-instructor for beginners.
The festival is always a good time, but after not climbing all summer I was anxious about how it would turn out. Would I go to teach the students how to swing a tool and completely forget all technique? Would we be able to find good ice, and if so would we be able to lead it in order to set up a good top rope? Would I be able to keep all of my students safe on the glacier?
As we pulled up early Friday afternoon I knew immediately that my burnout had passed. I went out with Carlene and Pat to scope out the scene and get some laps in. The permanent smile I always used to have when hiking out onto the Matanuska Glacier had returned. The first thunk of my tools into the ice and I was hooked again.
The students were tentative first thing Saturday morning. I really love to teach. I always get a bit nervous before attempting to teach something that I have only been doing for three years, but when I start talking I remember that I do have a lot of knowledge to pass on to them and that it's okay that I don't know everything. I'm still learning too.
Each student made some sort of impression on me by the end of the weekend. From the gifted athlete who already has amazing strength and picks up on technique really quickly to the guy who just moved here from Texas and is in total amazement by the beauty of the glacier and that we actually get to climb on it to the tenacious novice who struggles all weekend finally getting to the top of a difficult climb just minutes before we were to pull the ropes and pack up for the weekend.
We learned the basics the first day, and then we put them on some hard overhangs the second day. We kinda skipped the intermediate stuff. They were up for the challenge. It's really cool to see the students get better as the weekend progresses. It's fantastic to see them meet the goals they set out to achieve. I hope that I could provide them some guidance in doing that.
Sunday afternoon we pulled the ropes at 3:30pm, packed up our stuff and started to head out. I felt a twinge of sadness to end such a fantastic weekend and to have to leave the glacier behind. I felt that excitement in my stomach that I felt after my first Ice Festival. I think it was a good decision to take a break from climbing this summer. I feel so refreshed and ready to go that I can hardly think about anything else right now.