Winter sports have always been tough for me. I love to downhill ski but I don’t get out to do it much. I love to snowshoe but I don’t own any. Classic cross country skiing is fun (again, don’t own any) but I’m terrible at skate skiing. Speaking of skating, I rarely, if ever, do it. So I don’t cross country or skate ski, I don’t skate at all, and I don’t own snowshoes (yet); what kind of a Minnesotan am I?
I’ve only ever been rock climbing before. Even though I dislike the cold (and this winter has been abysmal) I’m always looking for different ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
An opportunity to do just that made itself available recently in the form of ice climbing. I’ve never been ice climbing before and had never known anyone who has done it, but as it turns out, someone I’ve climbed with before has ice climbing experience. Erik is a manager at Vertical Endeavors, which means that he has approximately 10x more ability than I do and 50x more expertise.
A small group of us headed north to Sandstone to climb on a Saturday morning a number of weeks ago. Leading up to the day I had been keeping an eye on the bitter cold weather. I thought it was supposed to be around 20 degrees, and if I layered right and was moving around, I should be warm enough. Instead, it was closer to 0 degrees. Suffice to say, I was not layered as well as I could have been, which led to a wicked cold day. My fingers and toes were so cold I couldn’t feel them after a while, even while I was climbing. But then again, I’m a big baby when it comes to being cold outside anyways.
When we arrived at Sandstone we walked the narrow snow-packed trail at the top of the ridge to find the best spots to set our ropes. Since I’m not that experienced at setting top ropes I basically walked around while Erik, Erik, and Bryan did all the work. Sure I tried to untie a knot for Erik, but, finger dexterity was severely lacking in my choppers, so I played the role of the unhelpful spectator. Once we set up three different routes we headed back down to the bottom where we spent the rest of the day.
Here’s what I can say about ice climbing for a first timer (from my perspective at least).
1) It’s a lot different than rock climbing. Ice climbing requires a whole different technique I was not familiar with, and it’s more rigid. Whereas with rock climbing, technique is certainly involved, but I felt I had more freedom with my body with rock climbing.
2) It’s cold. And I did not layer appropriately. My mistake. My freezing mistake.
3) It’s tiring. Tiring in a different way than rock climbing because of the emphasis on different and unfamiliar muscles used.
4) It’s a lot of fun. Although I didn’t entirely know what I was doing and only a fool would say that I was any good at it, I actually had a lot of fun and would recommend it for anyone to try at least once.
5) Sandstone is cool. There were many more people ice climbing than I would have expected at Sandstone, which has a really cool wall of ice when it’s properly watered. It was impressive and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before.
Then again, Sandstone hadn’t heard of me before either, and it didn’t seem to care.