“Want to go to Canmore in February to climb ice?”, the text message read from my friend Jesse Huey, an incredibly talented ice, mixed and rock climber. He still ‘owed me’ for a day spent belaying him up the 3000 foot Free Rider on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, when he sent the entire route in a day. Without hesitation I sent him back the simple message, Yes, you don’t skip an opportunity like this. I’m an alright ice and mixed climber, swinging around with battle axes in hand and sharp pointy things strapped to my feet has always struck me as absurdly fun. I find that there are surprising similarities in the movements and techniques of all forms of climbing: ice and mixed to free climbing and even the technical aspects of hard aid climbing. Hooking with ice tools is not very different from the hooking found on aid routes, the main difference being the incredible, deep forearm pump that threatens to throw you from the wall although the fear seems to remain.
Our trip to Canada was an incredibly successful adventure in the art of winter climbing. In one fell swoop, with Jesse’s relentless encouragement and incredible motivation we climbed thousands of feet of ice. I lead my first Water Ice 5, 5+ and 6, sent my first notable mixed routes, on-sighting the incredible Cryophobia with M7, M7+ and M8 pitches. We made smart choices about avalanche conditions, climbed pillars that soon fell down, used a compass to navigate while lost in the woods, stumbled upon a hibernating bear, and shared laughs and good times with new friends and old. It’s hard to beat a climbing trip like that, were already.