Monday, February 2, 2009

On reaching goals

Kim and I set out Saturday morning at 8:30 am to go into Eklutna Canyon so that she could lead Ripple for the first time. Ripple is a climb that seems to inspire new ice climbers. Maybe because it is so beautiful. Maybe because it is so colorful with bulges of blue and green. Maybe because it is a right of passage among new leaders.

I have heard experienced climbers call Ripple "moderate ice" and there are many people that solo it. Ripple to them is a sort of warm up for the season. But for people like me and Kim, who have only recently begun leading ice, it has been a big goal for us.

Two years ago when I started leading (the same year that I started climbing with Kim), I made Ripple my ultimate goal for the season. I reached that goal in March of that year. It felt like an amazing accomplishment to climb almost 60 meters, with my own gear, under my own power.

Now two years later Kim and I arrived at Ripple early Saturday morning. It was zero degrees, so we were slow to get ready. We put on all of our layers including down Chugach pants under our harnesses and got ready to climb. I was amazed at Kim's courage to get started despite the frigid cold temperatures.

I remember the first day she climbed. Her friend had talked her into going to the MCA ice festival. She never imagined herself as a climber and resisted. She finally gave in and ended up having a great time. I remember her cursing and grunting her way up the climbs. She never gave up. Even if she fell off ten times, she kept getting back on and trying harder. I admired this in her. She was hooked, just like me.

Kim started up Ripple her toes and fingers already burning from the cold. She seemed to head up the first section with ease. She had agreed to grab a screw that some guys that climbed it before us had left behind, so had to do a bit of traversing at the top to get it. I stood at the bottom stomping my feet and just trying to stay warm.

She seemed to slow down a bit at the top. I knew she was getting tired. Because of the traverse, I imagine there was quite a bit of rope drag pulling down on her harness. Rope drag is tough. At it's worst it can feel like you are dragging a small child up behind you, constantly threatening to pull you off of the wall.

I saw her roll over the top of the climb and was relieved. She had done it. I knew she was probably feeling pretty good right now. Leading on ice can be a roller coaster of emotions. Before you start you feel anxious. You are never sure if it's gonna go down the way you had planned. During the climb you feel focused, but have moments of question. Rolling over the top of the climb the first time is a moment of elation.

By the time I joined Kim at the top she was freezing. I remembered the first time we had been together at the top of Ripple. It was when I led it two years before. We were both exhausted, because I had really laced up the ice with screws making us both work hard! Kim met me at the top by belly flopping over the lip. Then we treated ourselves to some gummy cherries that Kim had hung from a biner on her harness.

Today I helped her set up the rappel and let her go first so that she could get down and get some food and drink in her. As I watched her disappear down over top of the climb I hung from the anchor worried. She seemed disoriented from the cold.

We talked about goals on the walk out of the canyon. Kim mentioned that when she started ice climbing she had set several goals for herself. Today she had met the last of those goals. She felt that she could now relax when it came to climbing.

Today I found out that Kim got frostbite on her toes. She says she is content though for having done the climb. It's been fun watching her progress over the years. She has come a long way since that first day on the Matanuska glacier. I am proud!

1 comment:

JordyB said...

What a great post. Love reading about these kinds of adventures! Great photos too! Makes me want to climb that ice wall!