Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keeping your tools sharp

It was opening day for me today.  After contemplating and checking out various climbs, and ceasing all the dilly-dallying that is always the final step for embarking on all ascent-oriented goals...yes, I finally got onto the ice for first time this winter season.

The destination?  Beer climbs, and it apparently took a big hit from this past weekend's Pineapple Express that lambasted southcentral Alaska, but one narrow vein of waterfall ice to the far left was in decent shape, and offered good fun for the four of us.

I had met the other three in our party just this morning, which is indicative of how few people actually ice climb in the Anchorage area...well, at least out of those who are unemployed and have nothing better to do on a Wednesday.  Even so, I think most ice climbers talk about climbing ice more so than actually doing it....even when they surprise themselves through the realization that they are actually doing what it is they say they do.  By that, I mean most of the time is spent slogging up to the climb, then shooting the shit at the belay station with the other person who's standing around looking bored, but just happens to be saddled with the somewhat important job of holding a life in their hands, with very little actual climbing going on, except for the poor chap clinging to the chandelier up above by only 4 points of contact on an always suspect medium.  As a climber, would you want your non-climbing belayer to be transfixed in paying attention to your every move as you place the screws, or have them gabbing on and on about this and that and who knows what else?  

The answer of course lies somewhere along the subjective WI grading scale.  The only reason a legitimately safe form of belayed soloing on ice has yet to be designed, is because too few climbers realize the incentive behind not wanting to rely on a fellow human to anticipate YOUR mistakes, while you wonder if your mistakes are any more plausible than THEIR mistakes.  It's best to limit the number of possible mistakes at any given point in time to one human mind, and otherwise trust in the greater laws of nature, especially physics.

A pair of Grivel ice tool picks, freshly sharpened after today's climbing.  You may notice the slightly downward angled edge along the tip of the bottom pick, as well as the shorter length resulting from another point-dulling event from last season.  If you've got the good sense to dull your pick points from actual climbing, make sure you alternate the mash-ups, at least for the style of it all.

The day ended well, aside from a smashed pick tip, which required a bit of sharpening after I returned home.  I was initially amused when I heard the dull clang that accompanies any precise moment when sharp metal meets hard rock at a substantial speed, and more so when I saw the point all curled up.  Another reason why ice climbers most of the time aren't what they say they are, is because they're afraid of breaking their embarrassingly expensive climbing tools.

It is important to keep all of your tools sharp as you go out to climb that crazy ice....especially the most important tool of all: your mind.

More on this later, maybe.

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