Saturday, February 13, 2010

Simple Ice Tricks

Norway! I love climbing in the land of big new routes with my friend Andreas Spak. Yeah!

I've done more ice climbing this season than I think I ever have in a season--Norway is just the latest round. The dZi Endless Ascent effort started it all off, but for some reason I've just been swinging the tools a lot with a variety of partners. I love working on technique and tricks for moving on ice, and thinking about how to do it with a higher safety margin and less effort. Here are a few things I've been thinking and see a lot of:

-If you get a stuck tool regularly you're likely placing them both at the same horizontal level. Don't. It's a waste of effort, time and makes the leader far less secure because they have to wrestle a tool out while it's off to the side. Place tools roughly 30 to 60 cm apart vertically and roughly shoulder-width or a bit narrower horizontally.

-Completely stand up and drive you hips into the ice to finish the stand-up part of a movement. Most climbers don't, which puts more weight on their arms.

-If you're getting pumped and you're not a complete novice it's almost always because your feet aren't at the same horizontal level, and aren't solid. Solid feet make for relaxed hands. If one foot is low when you stand up it will come off, making you out of balance. Kick twice as much as you swing.

-Look at the ice. LOOK at the ice. I can tell within about one swing and one foot placement how experienced an ice climber is; swing at corners in the ice, pockets, spaces between icicles, and kick in roughly the same places. But even if you know this you can't execute it without looking at the ice for every foot and tool placement...

-Swing with your elbow high, and the pick, head and shaft of the tool all in line with your wrist, forearm and upper arm. It's about getting the pick moving fast and accurately; 99 percent of people drop their elbow when they swing, which is a waste of effort, compromises accuracy, and reduces the vertical gain on each swing. Even worse is the "chicken wing" swing, with your elbow out to the side at roughly shoulder level...

-If you want to be a better ice climber go hang a rope on a vertical piece of ice and climb it a whole lot. Like 200 or more times. With crampons off, on, no tools, one tool, etc. etc. Many aspirant ice climbers drop the sport after spending a weekend climbing 4 pitches and freezing their asses off. Go TR like mad, then you lead fast, follow fast, and be secure while doing so.

Back to ice climbing here in Norway, only another 50,000 FAs to do until we run out of ice...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Some video fun

Here's a little video sports action of the Endless Ascent effort, shot by my friend Scott Milton. Memories, memories! Nice work Scott and team Arc. There are a whole whack of linked videos if you open the video directly on Youtube to.

I'm looking out the window on Norway, where an epic season is in progress. Jetlagged, over-traveled but still STOKED to get it on!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Redstone Winterfest

I just spent two days at the Redstone Winterfest, in Redstone, Colorado. Redstone is a small town on the western side of the Colorado Rockies. I've spent a bunch of days in the area over the years kayaking, hiking and a little bit of bouldering, but it's not a place I've ever really thought of as an ice or mixed climbing location. I was wrong about that, there are some great ice climbs and a whole horde of really good mixed routes, all on this interactive soft red sandstone.

I showed up on Friday morning, and wanted to warm up as I've only done one of day of mixed climbing this season. Since about October I've been focused on ice climbing, huge quantities of ice climbing; this has left me with pretty good endurance, but a little low on mixed power. Fortunately the first route I got, an M9, had an aggressive in-your-face boulder problem overhang to start with. Why, out of all the Redstone routes, did I get on that one? I am an idiot at picking warmups, but the local vibe was good. I fell off right away to get that over with and then spent an hour figuring out the intricate hooks, pebble grabs and micro-ice placements. Thanks to MB for the long belay. In what was to become a pattern, I got pumped right away, but the routes there often have cool rests if you're creative, so I'd de-pump, do a move or two, rest, sketch up a few feet pulling on cobbles, it was super fun but definitely a new style of climbing for me!

The locals run rock shoes sometimes, and switch back and forth from rock shoes to rock shoes with crampons bolted on, sometimes twice in one pitch! Chalk bags are common, and as the air temperature is often around freezing you don't really need gloves once you warm up. It's odd to bust out a 5.11 pebble move in the middle of a mixed route, but after a bit of a head-fake mentally I got into it, it's super fun!

The rest of Friday and Saturday turned into two of the more "pumper" days I've ever had. So pumped, almost falling off, hooks breaking, the smallest icicle I've ever successfully stood on (perfect temps for small icicles, warm but not too warm), just on the edge of pitching off but making it to the anchors. That type of, "I'm falling off now! No, wait, not yet, no falling, snagged a hold, OK, de-pump" climbing is pretty much my favorite thing to do in the world. I had a couple of decent onsights that I was psyched on given my relative lack of "M" fitness, super fun to get back into the mixed game! Lots of old friends from the Colorado days also showed up; Colorado was my home for almost ten years, and a piece of my heart will always respond to the blue sky, warm sun, mountains and good times I had with people there over the years.

I finished out my visit with a couple of laps on "The Drool," a classic pillar. Blue ice, red rock, Redstone! Thanks to the crew who let me rotate in with their TR session, good form.

I'll definitely be heading back there, maybe as a tie-in with the Ouray festival next year. I have some good-looking routes left to do, and some of 'em weren't even in! And this whole mixed climbing thing with a chalkbag has got me interested, Duane Raleigh and Jeff Jackson are coming up with some new ideas for sure.

Thanks to DR, AO, MB, Quint, Jefe and the rest of the psyched crew there, great trip!