This weekend took me back to a sport I had taken a break from, ice climbing! My friend Courtney invited me for a climb in Huntingtons Ravine and I was nervous but not about to turn down the offer! Huntingtons Ravine had been on my list of climbs for a while but it always intimidated me and I never got a chance to get in there, until this weekend!
I was nervous all week, I didn’t want to hold anyone up or have a freak out and hold up the climb. When I got to Pinkham notch and put on my climbing boots and zipped up my gaitors I began to remember that I knew how to do this and I would have a good day! I met up with Courtney, Mary, and Joel and we made the slog up to the Ravine. We had some good laughs and made pretty good time getting up there! This was my first time carrying a pack full of climbing gear in quite some time and I felt it in my legs but kept on pushing up the hill!
At one point as we neared the ravine I turned around and the scenery was almost dream-like. I could see the mountains floating in and out of a white haze, peaks of blue sky and a bit of sunlight. I gazed up into the Ravine at blue skies with white puffy clouds whipping by overhead and lots of beautiful spindrift dancing through the gullies. My senses awoke and that fire inside was lit. I was ready to climb.
Not knowing if my skills had slipped much or how tough this would be I took a deep breath and put on my harness and crampons. The avalanche conditions were moderate and were predicted to increase as the day went on. We were going to have to have a smooth run up this ravine today and I told myself I was not allowed to get scared.
We got to the base of Yale Gully and there were only a couple of other parties out climbing other routes. I looked up at the big blue ice in front of me and my heart filled with warmness. I knew I wouldn’t be leading today and felt really bad that Courtney would be hauling my ass up this thing but I was so excited to have a friend kind enough to take me out climbing! We roped up and off she went.
Courtney is an incredible climber. Her grace and confidence in the sport are what I admire about her climbing skills. I hope to get back to leading again someday! It was like summer down in the ravine and I could hear the wind howling over my head but for now I was enjoying the warm sun beating against my black clothing.
I looked around and felt like I was back where I belonged, in the mountains! Now ice climbing, especially in an alpine enviroment is not for everyone. You are far from help, you sweat, you freeze, conditions change rapidly and you need to be ready for anything that may be thrown your way. The routes can be unpredictable and vary as you get higher up the climb. We were soon to experience this phenomenon.
As we got higher up we realized the snowpack was not very stable. dust on crust that lie on top of a few feet of powder with an icy layer below. Perfect 30% angle slopes kept us alert for avalanche danger. We knew these conditions were probably unlikely to be naturally triggered but also knew they were perfect for a human trigger. Luckily there was a lot of ice on this climb and we stuck to that as much as we could.
A few pitches up we were right below a slope that looked like a potential for a problem so we moved through that belay quickly. Soon we were at the next pitch getting blasted with wind and spindrift. Our route was now in the shadows and it was getting cold. I got the screaming barfies twice and it almost brought tears to my eyes as my hands went from useless bricks to feeling like I stuck them in a fry vat. This was not the time to be messing around. I sucked it up and we moved on up.
As I reached Courtney at the last belay she signaled me to keep going up the snowfield and to top out. I found a nice open slope that seemed like a great top out but as I put a foot down into the snow I felt a huge layer settle under my foot. My heart started pounding and I slowly and carefully moved to the right and traversed to an area that felt a bit more stable. I threw a sling around a root that was sticking out of the snow which was more mental protection for me than anything else. I figured if this slope slid on me it may slow me down or hold me up. When I got to the top I set up a body belay and got Courtney up and we hiked across the alpine garden under cloudy skies and high winds.
We did the sideways shuffle down to Lions Head winter route and were finally in the sheltered trees. Things were great until we got to this icy downclimb section and I had a freak out! What the heck! I was so brave all day and then this stupid little down climb did me in. I lowered my pack to Courtney, cursed at myself a bit for being such a wimp and she talked me down it. We had a great hike down under the moonlight and celebrated with dinner at Delaneys.
I had a great time and hope the frost nip on my fingers recovers quickly! I cant wait to climb again! My weekend finished with an icy 10.5 mile run with Ryan which was fun but probably some of the hardest running I have ever done! We had a great day and finished the weekend off with an incredible homemade gluten free pizza! Looking forward to the next weekend!!!!!