To the extent that a fitrson lojis his ability to concentrate, be himself becomes powerless to accomplish, io enjoy, and above all, to love,
—Timothy Gallwey, inner Skiing
We have bicameral minds. Our left brains function analytically,- our right brains are more creative. Western culture favors logic and reason over emotion and feeling. This tendency has divorced us somewhat from our senses. In ice climbing it is best when we reinhabit our bodies. The center or balance point from which all movement and all awareness originates is located in the lower abdomen. Anyone who has turned a somersault knows this center, and so, for that matter, does anyone who has "rolled out of bed." Functioning from the center allows us to remain calm in the midst of external confusion, Through sensitized hands, feet, eyes, ears, and noses, real information can go straight to this source of power, where a balanced response is automatic, bypassing the mental screen of ideas, values, beliefs, and conditioning that can put a 90° bend in reality.
The exercises below are designed to help you find your center and get clearer input from your senses. This will allow you to get more out of ice climbing. The mechanics are important, too, however, and here you will find each technique broken down into its component parts Movements are isolated in the photos as if they were complete in themselves. As you read the captions and study the photos, it is up to you to visualize the flow. Imagine yourself in the pictures,- but go further and make a movie out of the stills. Run through the sequences until they are smooth mentally, and when you actually try them on ice, they will be much more comfortable.
When you do go to the ice, go with an experienced friend or an instructor. After you have donned crampons, insist on taking a little time before you start to climb, and do these things:
1. Open up and start feeling, seeing, hearing, and smelling. Replace expectations with an awareness of the cold seeping up through your boots into the balls of your feet,- wriggle your toes to warm them In a similar fashion, check out the rest of your senses and extremities,
2. Determine the true angle of the ice you have come to practice on. Take two ski poles or ice axes of equal length. Hold one vertically with the point on the slope and make a right angle pointing toward the slope by holding the other pole or axe horizontally at the top. If the horizontal pole or axe fully outstretched just touches the slope, then the angle is 45°. If the appendage doesn't reach, then the angle is less than 45°. If the horizontal member forms a T with the vertical brace when the point touches the slope, then the angle is greater than 45°. Study the detailed structure of the ice,
3. Isolate as many muscle groups as you can and alternately tense and relax each one, starting with your head and working down. Concentrate especially on the calf muscles.
4. Breathe slowly and deeply until your breathing is smooth and relaxed.
5. Still breathing evenly, do some stretching exercises.
6. Recall the last time you felt real confidence. Hold that feeling,
7. With both knees slightly bent and feet at shoulder width, take a step forward, but just before transferring your weight, step back. Do this with both feet and feel your center of gravity.
Now you are ready to climb. The photographs in this chapter were taken during an extended lesson on Colorado waterfall ice,
with Bird Lew as my student. Bird has a long history of rock climbing, including traditional self-protected routes, as well as modern sport-climbing competitions. She had previously done a small amount of high-mountain snow climbing with crampons, but had never experienced technical ice. Although we spent a week on the basics of ice climbing up to WI4, the techniques required for waterfalls are essentially identical to the alpine ice techniques previously discussed. In any case, most waterfall ice climbs have a difficulty of WI3 or more Here we will join the lesson at the beginning of week two in Ouray, Colorado, The following waterfall ice and mixed climbing techniques are also applicable to extreme high-mountain ice climbs.
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