Get mildly psyched for ice!


IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. A white cloak blan­kets the for­est floor, feath­ery pil­lows adorn the pine boughs, and the snow damp­ens all sound, trans­form­ing the wilder­ness into a win­ter won­der­land. It’s ter­ri­ble. All the rock is ei­ther too wet or too cold to climb, and this shit goes on for, like, three months. That’s right—now is the sea­son when you might as well go ice climb­ing. What else are you go­ing to do? Weave through kids on leashes at the ski re­sort? Suf­fo­cate in a sauna? Snug­gle with your sig­nif­i­cant other un­der a warm blan­ket, next to a crack­ling fire, eat­ing Nutella with a spoon while binge-watch­ing that new HBO se­ries? Those all sound re­ally nice, but you should still go ice climb­ing, I guess.

You are a “climber,” aren’t you? That’s enough to feel ob­li­gated to like ice climb­ing. Sure, when you climb ice, there’s no di­rect con­nec­tion with the medium, prob­lem-solv­ing with dif­fer­en­ti­ated move­ment, or re­li­able pro­tec­tion, but both ice and rock in­volve go­ing up and in­clude the word “climb­ing.” What are you go­ing to do, climb in the gym all win­ter? As the pun­dits on climb­ing fo­rums agree: Noth­ing rad hap­pens in­doors. The gym is for mu­tant chil­dren and peo­ple on first dates who bought Groupons. If you want to be rad, you must go out­side, and in win­ter that means ice. I’m sorry; you don’t have a lot of op­tions.

Think of it this way: If you were locked in a room for three months and all you had to eat were Milk-Bones, you’d eat the MilkBones. In this metaphor, win­ter is the room, Milk-Bones are ice climb­ing, and rock climb­ing is real food—which is locked in a much nicer room down the hall.

God will­ing, global warm­ing will end this win­ter non­sense soon, but un­til then dig your gear out of that big Tup­per­ware in the closet. You’ll need a solid evening to sharp- en your tools and sand the rust off your ‘pons. This is the best part—you get to feel tough and cool while rub­bing metal things to­gether, but you don’t have to be scared or cold. Be sure to In­sta­gram this. What do you mean you can’t find your tools? They’re right where you left them: un­der your bed in case of a home in­va­sion.

Now to re­cruit a part­ner. Find some­one who’s way more psyched than you lest the whole thing fall apart. You know, that nutjob friend of yours who’s been check­ing con­di­tion re­ports since Oc­to­ber 1 and wears moun­taineer­ing boots to the gym.

It’ll be worth it—trust me. Set your alarm for 4 a.m. Yes, it does seem ex­treme to wake up that early for some­thing you don’t like that much, and no, you don’t wake up that early for rock climb­ing, which you love. But if you al­low your­self to sleep in un­til the sun comes up, the pil­lar you’re climb­ing may col­lapse, killing you and your part­ner.

You’ll thank me when you’re sink­ing picks into that pla­s­ticky blue wa­ter­fall good­ness. No, “ex­cit­ing” isn’t the right word. Re­mem­ber, you’re not al­lowed to fall, un­less you want a pick through your cheek or a spi­ral frac­ture in your tibia when you catch a cram­pon. Ice climb­ing should feel mo­not­o­nous. Swing, swing, kick, kick, swing, swing, kick, kick, etc. We’re aim­ing for a solid 3 out of 10 on the fun scale. But no toprop­ing! As a climber, you’re sup­posed to want to lead. It’s only a true ad­ven­ture if you lead. That in­cludes the dumpy, picked-out 25-foot WI2 flow above the train tracks.

Yes, it will be cold. It will at least be cold enough for ice to ex­ist, pos­si­bly colder. Be­lay­ing is a des­per­ate dance for warmth while you dodge frozen bas­ket­balls. But it will be worth it, briefly. You will brave the el­e­ments like a true ad­ven­turer for two hours—long enough to feel like you’ve done some­thing— and then you and your part­ner can go to a diner for lum­ber­jack break­fasts.

I know what you’re think­ing: Ice climb­ing is cold, the gear is ex­pen­sive, and it’s not that much fun—why the hell should you leave your cozy bed for that? There’s just one rea­son: In pho­tos, ice climb­ing looks like the rad­dest thing ever. It will make your Face­book friends think you’re a mega-badass, and that’s just barely worth go­ing out two to four times a year for.

Or, if your job lets you work re­motely, spend the sea­son clip­ping bolts in Potrero Chico and skip all this non­sense.


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