My First Day of Winter

We got started about 2pm, after a visit from the plumber who finished the rough in for the new bathroom. We walked back and forth a bit between Repentance and Remission- they both look pretty difficult – and settled for the one on the left (Repentance). I had brought an extra hoody for the car ride and put that on, too. At this point I’m wearing more clothing than I ever remember wearing to go ice climbing.

Scott quickly leads the first pitch and I join him. This is my first ice climb of the year and the usual disaray is in full effect – slings hanging here.. and there, can’t unclip this biner, almost dropped that screw, I have so many clothes on that my ice clippers are almost where my chalk bag would be.. After taming the chaos we get going again.

The ice on the second pitch is way in the back of chimney, there’s only a little snow on the ledges, otherwise the cliff is totally bare. Screws are hard to get because the ice is so far back in the crevice, the rock gear is mostly good and dry. After whining my way through the crux bit with my picks buried in somebody else’s hooks, not really finding the excuse I was looking for, I find myself safely protected with one tool clipped to my left hip, chimneying. It was about here, halfway up the chimney, when I start thinking about how cool this whole thing is. Right in my backyard, one of the best mixed climbs you could find. Arm bars, delicate swings, high stepping on front points, heel toe camming knee bars. It was just so.. fun. Higher, the pitch gets icier and a surprisingly big spindrift avalanche floats and sprays down on me, the climbing gets thoughtful again, delicate. What an adventure.

Now, of course, it’s getting dark, obviously no one brought a headlamp and it’s really starting to get cold. We’re resorting gear, the unecesarily long half ropes are kinda lopped around everywhere, stuff is dangling, I need to retie my boots, my new gloves are too big, the wind is howling. There is a sense of urgency. I remember that we’re only one rappel form the ground. I’m trying to rush all the little things I have to do before I start up the pitch, I slow myself down. Logic prevails. I get going up brittle, convex ice. Lots of screws. My hand are fucking cold. My crampons are dull, so are my picks. Everything works out… again. Above the steep ice it is somehow warm, the ice moist, plastic. I think of Steve House as I fist jamb my head around the chockstone, steinpull, swing into dirt.

Scott’s head pops out around the chockstone and we start talking again. It is dark, there’s no moon, just the lights of Cranmore; like a mini Vegas Luxor to show the way. At 5 we’re driving home in a cold car, at 5:30 we’re stoking his multiple woodstoves and by 7:00 we’re with my wife eating roast chicken and  potatoes with gravy, with bread and salad and drinking wine.