Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Search

In every ice season there is a period at both the beginning and the end when a certain personal investment is involved in searching for climbable ice. Depending on time of year, temperatures, weather conditions, relative humidity, etc., the search is for ice that is forming in early winter, and later ice that hasn't degraded too much in early spring.

Will Gadd and Kelly Cordes, among many others, write about the seasonal quest to find the fickle ice and mixed climbs that form early in the season. They both acknowledge that a lot of times, I would say at least fifty percent of the time, you come away empty handed. Cordes uses the phrase, "taking his tools for a walk". I like that.

In this post Cordes writes about this process of following a hunch, seeing something from afar and then taking the chance that just maybe there will be ice to climb.

In the last two weeks, I have gotten calls from people asking about conditions, and then the caller goes on to hypothesize about this or that ice fall, or I have read posts on websites where people have presented themselves as knowledgeable about conditions without being at the area in question. People talk or write about this stuff without investing the time to check things out. My favorite recent example is here regarding an ice fall in the Malta valley of Carinthia.

The writer writes on the 5th of January that the fall is possible but only on the right side in the upper pitches. On the 5th of January my partner and I climbed the fall "Superfreucht", starting on very thin and difficult to protect ice on the right and then moving to the left on the upper pitches for a steeper exit at the top.

The materialistic mentality of society has long ago seeped into the minds of climbers. People work all week, have little time for outside interests, and want a guaranteed return when they go out to climb ice. It's a lot easier to call someone or look in the Internet than to think for yourself and invest the time and energy in finding what's in shape.

Part of being a real ice climber is just taking your tools for a walk.

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