Monday, February 8, 2016

Ice Climbing with the Sierra Mountaineering Club

Its been about 6-8 years since I last swung an ice tool. I used to climb with Kyle every Christmas break when I was in grad school. At the time I was following Kyle on routes up to WI4 and I even led a couple of easy ice climbs.

My very first ice lead, circa. 2007
Thunder Bay ice climbing, circa 2007
Kyle battling White Lightning (WI3+) circa 2007
Fast forward ~8-10 years, and here I am climbing with as much passion as I did in my twenties. I think if anything my ambition is even bigger than it was then. With my alpine dreams, competence with snow and ice is a crucial competent. So this year I am committed to filling the technical gaps in my climbing so I can actually get onto some of the bigger peaks.

 I decided to try out the whole club/guide scene in order to re-explore ice climbing. I joined the Sierra Mountaineering Club, a non-profit alpine club that offers many training courses. I signed up for a 2 day ice climbing course at Lee Vining.

I drove up to Lee Vining Friday night (6 hours!) and joined the group at 7am on Saturday. There were 9 climbers on day 1, and only 5 on day 2. The guides through up a couple of top ropes, and we basically played around on the ice. We were given some instruction on motion, crampon use, and how to swing tools properly.

Our group top roping at Lee Vining

One of our group members getting instruction from an SMC guide
On the second day we were taught about ice screw placements, V-thread anchors, and did several mock leads. I think I must have climbed about 15 pitches of ice over the 2 days. I was amazed at how quickly my body remembered how to climb. I had no problem cruising up the ice falls. it was honestly like riding a bicycle. I think also my aerobic training was extremely valuable, I was barley tired even after all those pitches.

A climber leading a WI 4 section on the main falls

What I really got out of this course was confidence. If I can find willing partners, I am ready to go back to Lee Vining on my own, and lead some ice pitches. I also feel very ready for my week of ice climbing in Thunder Bay coming up in March, and I am excited to climb with Kyle again, and lead some ice pitches.

Drone view of Lee Vining

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