By CMG Guide Alexa Siegel
‘Standard Route’ is the classic Grade 3 ice climb at Frankenstein Cliffs in Crawford Notch. On a typical Saturday you have to get there early or wait in line as hoards of people scramble up every which way. To most North Conway locals, Standard is as casual as a summertime dip in the Saco. This was my second season ice climbing and my partner Hanna and I picked Standard Route as our goal for the season. We were quickly running out of time and this would be the most difficult thing either of us had climbed.
We rolled up in Hanna’s little blue Volkswagen “olf” (the G fell off some time ago) and booted up. As we approached the trestle, a man jumped in front of us leaving his two partners contemplating how to fasten their gators.
“What are you climbing?” the man eagerly asked over his shoulder.
“Just Standard” Hanna said as I struggled to hear from the back of the group.
“Ohh….us too”, he said “Just the other day, I saw someone put their partner on Standard for his first lead. I mean can you imagine that as your first lead?”
Hanna looked back at me and I gave her a nervous wide-eyed stare. He proceeded to lecture us about “putting in your time”. Doubt bubbled to the surface as we listened to his rant.
My boyfriend’s lecture the night before about taking ice climbing more seriously started to make me question our preparedness. “Ice climbing is not like rock climbing Alexa, you can’t fall and you need to be focused,” he droned. When Hanna and I climb together the giggles can often fool onlookers, but these ladies still mean business.
At the base the man started racking up but he remained partnerless. Hanna and I were ready, so we decided to start up. We collected ourselves. Calm, confident Hanna took the first lead. Now it was my turn. Stepping cautiously out of the cave, I felt a rush of nerves, but I shut it out and focused on making each swing stick. A sense of relief soon overcame me. We topped out, reveling in our accomplishment, descending into the New Hampshire evening with thoughts of hot whiskey drinks and a toasty wood stove.
Standard Route was not the most technical or the hardest thing I’ve done, yet the memory remains vivid. Roping up to ice climb with another woman for the first time was an experience that remains crucial to me as a winter climber. Women are outnumbered in the outdoors in general, but this is especially true in the wintertime. This is one of the many reasons I love being a part of Ladies Only Workshops.
My regular climbing partners, both male and female, inspire, encourage, and make me laugh until my stomach aches. However, for me it’s a pretty rare opportunity that I get to climb in groups made up solely of women. Ladies Only Clinics create a platform for women to learn from one another and also meet new partners in a supportive environment. Our Ladies Only Workshops promote the development of women as strong, self-reliant climbers with the skills to do it all!