Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alaska Ice Climbing Festival - Day One

I got on the road Saturday morning and realized after posting directions to the Festival site, including a detailed map, that I hadn't paid attention and did not know exactly where I was going. The festival was held in Hunter Creek Canyon, so I just drove in that direction and hoped that there would be signs for parking.

Waking up at 6am is not a part of my normal schedule and I'm convinced it is not good for me. I even went to bed early the night before and still felt like crap. I don't drink coffee when I climb, because it makes me anxious, which is not really a trait you want to have when ice climbing.

Despite being barely awake, I managed to find the parking lot and take the shuttle over to the canyon. Jayme had the giant Mountain Hardwear tent set up on the creek, just below the bridge. When I arrived my group was waiting for me. I decided to take the Basic Rescue Skills course in the morning, because I feel you can never learn too much about what to do when something goes wrong.

Over the course of the morning we learned how to escape a belay. The real life situation would be this. You are belaying a leader from the bottom of the climb or a second from the top. The other climber takes a fall and is unconscious or bleeding and you need to get to that person, or go for help, but are caught up in the belay. Lowering the person is not an option because you either can't see them or communicate with them and don't want to injure them further.

We learned how to secure the belay with a backup and free ourselves to start the rescue process. It is actually quite a complicated setup that took a few practice runs with guidance to get down. I learned some new knots, which is always good. I like adding to my "bag of tricks". Even if you never use these tricks in exactly the way you practiced them, it's good to get experience knowing many knots so that you can use them creatively in your own situations.

In the afternoon we walked across the canyon to the competition area. The comp was pretty casual with people signing up at the last minute as they watched others go up. It was a mixed route that became more of a rock route as the day went on, because the climbers were knocking down the available ice. I briefly contemplated signing up after seeing two woman go up, but since I had never climbed mixed before I decided against it. I guess my fear was that I wouldn't even be able to get off the ground. There were about 50 people watching so I just hung out and watched. Maybe next year.

I hiked out around 3pm before the competition ended and went home to rest up for the next day. I knew that we were going to be climbing on mostly rock the next day and was a bit intimidated by this. Last year I almost took a Mixed climbing course at Ouray, but realized at the last minute that it was called "Hard Mixed", so I ended up switching to a different course. After that I regretted not trying it.

This year I decided to just get it over with. As of Saturday night, my position was this. I don't have any high aspirations to climb a lot of hard mixed terrain. I just want to gain some experience in case I come across some rock while ice climbing. There have been a few times when I have gotten to the top of a climb and had to do a few moves on rock to get to a good anchor spot and I felt shaky. If I could learn the right way to do it, I would feel more comfortable.

I really didn't expect to like mixed climbing. I thought, just put in 8 hours, try my hardest and then I never have to do an entire day of mixed climb again. It kind of reminds me of the night before Brian convinced me to go ice climbing for the first time.

1 comment:

Monkee said...

I convinced you to go ice climbing first? Really? I started this madness? How quickly we forget.