I'm living proof that if you set your expectations low enough, you're seldom disapointed. My main goals this season were to climb as much as possible and maybe lead a few 2's and easy 3's. I didn't keep track of ice days, but got out whenever there was ice in Dec, 1-2x/week in Jan and Feb, and a few more days after a week in Red Rocks in early March. I succeeded spectactularly in my plan to convert two of my rock climbing partners, Jay and MikeB, into ice climbers. Jay is already leading 3's confidently. We swung leads on Chouinard's and Chouinard's Right on one of my few trips to the Dacks this year. There was just too much good ice in the Cats to justify the long drive.

I first exceeded my lead goals on a trip to Hillyer in January with Jay and AOC. Al lead the 1st pitch and suggested I take the 2nd. It was 3+, and it looked like there was half a stance to place a screw midway up the steep, but stem-able section. It's easy to say, "I can do that," standing on terra firma, listening to Al's quietly confident encouragement. It's another when you are in the thick of things well above your last piece and can't get a screw to start. I downclimbed to the last good stance, rested and placed a another screw as far as I could reach above the original one I'd placed from there. I knew the route was well within my ability to climb and managed to send it on the 2nd try. This came as a surprise to Jay, who knows I am a colossal chicken and who fully expected me to back off of it entirely.

Fast forward about a month. Jay, MikeB and I went to Stoney Clove West on a cold and blustery day. I'd already done a lot of the routes toward the north end, so we explored to the south. The first good route we came to was the Gurgler, which Jay lead. MikeB did well, inspite of very few days on ice. After that, we continued south. The Curtain was in with climbers on the 2nd pitch, but we all agreed that was too stout a lead for any of us.

We stopped at the next flow of ice we came to that looked fat enough to climb, which we would later identify as Stage Fright, W4, but we didn't open the guidebook at the time. It looked fairly steep at the bottom, but had what appeared to be a good rest 2/3's of the way up, followed by another steep section. There were some significant drips on the far left, but plenty of dry ice to climb. I could tell Jay was itching to lead this too (I swear he'd rather lead than eat or sleep), but he allowed me the choice since it was, in theory, my turn. I knew he was expecting me to chicken out, and that it would be stout, but I also knew it was within my ability to climb (I figured it was a 3+, but didn't check the guidebook). I'd said I'd take it. How is it that at 48, I'm still bowing to peer pressure?

The ice was thin enough that I left my long screws on the ground, taking only my 6 mediums and two shorts. Midway up the steep section, I had trouble starting one of the screws, put it away and dropped a 2nd before finally placing the 3rd. My calves were screaming. Focus, focus. It was steeper than it had looked from the ground (isn't it always?). I continued up with the adrenalin rushing by the time I reached the so-so stance 2/3's of the way up. It was there that I realized not one, but both of my remaining medium screws were dull. Jay had probably touched rock on the Gurgler without realizing it. The ice had been a little thin in a couple spots. I worked and worked trying to get one in the more pithy, aerated ice on the upper section. No dice. I spent considerable time talking myself out of panicing. Downclimbing from where I was looked terrifying and would have taken a lot of strength and energy. I didn't feel comfortable placing the two shorties in the so-so ice in front of me and being lowered off. I had no way of making a v-thread. I just wanted to get to the top. I wanted to be back on the ground. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. I wanted my mommy. The guys told me later they knew things were serious when I stopped talking to myself and got very quiet. They stopped shouting encouragement and fell silent, too, though I was far too busy to notice. I realized my best way out was up. Focus, focus. A sharp 13cm screw started easily in a slightly better piece of ice off to the right. The last one went in midway up the final stretch, and I was a little runout to the top. Fortunately, there was frozen dirt, rather than the usual loose rock on top. I swung one pick hard into the dirt. Good stick. Hooked a small tree with the other and crested the top. Yahoo!

Heart still pounding, I set up a top rope anchor and lowered off to let the guys climb. Afterward, Jay admitted he might have had difficulty had he led. He hadn't yet learned to shake his arms out early and often, and confessed he may have pumped out.

It was a while after that before I felt like leading anything again. Had I known in advance that route was W4, I almost certainly would not have led it, even though I was capable of it. I realize now that it's my noodly noodle, and not my weenie arms that have become my limiting factor. I'd give a cookie for a good lead head. I guess that will be next season's project.


Edited by KathyS (05/03/10 12:26 AM)
Edit Reason: extra words