MY FIRST TIME ICE CLIMBING
Scottish weather can be tough, especially in winter. One moment you are enjoying beautiful views and sunshine and the next, the wind knocks you off your feet and you can barely see the person in front of you. My boyfriend and I definitely experienced both of those moments during our first time ice climb. I had been wanting to try ice climbing for a long time. I was excited for the experience of a movement that is like nothing else, not even normal climbing.
The winter in Scotland has been nothing like everyone expected this year. The weather changing every few days from low to high temperatures did not give us any chance to give ice climbing a go. A few weeks back the spring came and we thought the winter was over for good this year. Although in the last week, the temperatures reached below 0 and the snow storms created suitable conditions for all winter sports again.
How many times have you desired to experience an activity but you thought only gifted, professional or really sporty people could do?
Somehow, we got this idea that certain activities are not for everyone. Yes, some might be more technical and some might involve a certain level of fitness, but we should not let that stop us from give something a go! Even if we end up not enjoying it, that is ok; there is always a friend who we can join, there are communities or paid services who will sort out every detail for you and teach you.
My friend Annie Ross has committed to do 52 active challenges in 52 weeks in 2015. This is a little more extreme than what I am trying to tell you here, but I want to show you an example that the only limitation is us. Like Annie, we should all be seeking to deliberately push ourselves to do things we would not normally do to learn something new about ourselves. This commitment led Annie to startTeam52 because she had the chance to see the value in being active and open to new experiences. You never know, you might find a new passion.
ICE CLIMBING IN THE CAIRNGORMS
Back to my ice climbing experience. Our friend David is an amazing climber and offered to take me and my boyfriend Charlie ice climbing. Not only had we not tried it before, we do not have any equipment so we were grateful to have someone experienced with us.
We met at the Cairngorm ski car-park at 7:30 and headed to Coire an t-Snechda. It was a gorgeous morning, the sun was peeking through the clouds and creating dramatic views. We got to Snechda and David chose to climb The Runnel. It is one of the easier ones.
After we put on our crampons, helmets, harnesses and got our ice axes ready, we left our bags at the bottom and walked up to the first rock. Once we were all secured with ropes, David started to climb up the first pitch. Charlie belayed him and my job was to keep loading Charlie with an untangled rope and keep warm.
That part seemed to be the most difficult one of them all. I am a person who gets hot when moving but really cold as soon as I stop. Kind of the worst combination for ice climbing, but hey, it was not going to stop me. I tried kicking and throwing my arms around, and every single dance move that is doable. I was standing on a steep hill with not much ability to move my feet because they were the only things stopping me from falling. The wind gust kept coming in unexpected moments and hit us hard with all the snow and sleet.
During this first part of the climb, I managed to get hit on my hip by a big chunk of ice. I guess it was partly painful but it was a shock that left me speechless and breathless. I was a lot more careful about keeping an eye on what else could be rolling down after that. When David had another secured spot set up, Charlie and I climbed together. The next pitch (and the last) is called The Chimney. It is a narrow crack where only one person can fit.
For a long part of this pitch we could not see David so we had to guess what was happening. Once he got up and started pulling my rope up (because I was the next one to go), that was the sign to take the ropes of the belay so he could pull it up and belay us from the top. It seemed like this was happening a couple of times so Charlie took the ropes off belay, but David started climbing again so we had to put it back on.
The feeling of uncertainty can be daunting when you are not sure what is happening, you cannot see the person climbing in front of you but you know that your belay is the only thing to hold them safe if they fall. It turned out to be a difficult part with a snow cornice at the top so that is why David took his time.
I climbed next and Charlie followed after me. It was horrendously windy at the top but the sun creeped out a few times and when you see the snow and landscape get all shiny and beautiful, the discomfort is irrelevant.
We all made it safe to the top. After we packed our ropes and other climbing equipment, we walked down the goats track to get back to our bags.
Charlie and I agreed that it was not a hard climb but it allowed us to test our abilities for the first time. It was a wonderful experience and even though I really struggled to stay warm, we had a great time. I learned that I need to put more clothes on next time because the waiting time outweighs the climbing time for sure.
We left Snechda around 2pm to walk back to the car park and could not be happier with the sun reappearing out from the clouds again and making the landscape irresistibly sparkly and gorgeous. Thank you David.
You know your experience was successful when every muscle in your body apart from your abs are aching the next day. Who would think that there are muscles on the top of your hand? You learn something new every day.
Be curious. Throw yourself out there once in a while. Even if you end up not enjoying it, you will always learn something new. I can promise you that.