After a couple of daring months of searching for an ice climbing partner, I’ve got lightning from the clear sky right in the middle of my mouth.
That lightning had a golden colour, massive foam on the top and after hitting the opposite one it made a sound: “clink, cheers”.
Climbing forums and facebook groups are great ways to start with partner research, but beer with your rock climbing friend usually works better.
Every climber usually knows the climber, who knows ice climber.
As we were slurping the beer, I talked about my headache from ice climbing partner research. My friend Adam has realized that his friend has a friend who is a fanatic ice climber and dry-tooler.
Thirty milliseconds after this message hit my neocortex I knew I have to meet the friend of my friend’s friend [known as Mr.D].
It has worked. Mr.D was interested to show us his Dry-tool spot [in fact he was irked, but he said yes].
The next morning at 9:15, we were tiptoeing at the place with a full trunk of climbing gear. Earlier is better, I wanted to leave a good impression. I was sure he will be like a swiss watch.
9:31 passed by. “Damn we have to be at the wrong place!” We have promptly dialled Mr.D only to hear that he was late for no serious reason.
Mr.D came, assuredly stepped out from his car and passed me his humongous hand for a handshake. “Let’s go”, he said
Looking at my trunk full of messed up gear which takes probably 10 minutes to pack up, I said silently: “Shit. My good impression is over.”
12 minutes fast forward I was finally ready to move towards the mission. As we were navigating through the field of cow shit-bombs Mr.D scanned my gear. Bike helmet, bike gloves, bike jacket, bike pants, soft Helly Hansen hiking boots and manual double-point crampons.
“You should upgrade your climbing gear, Adam,” he said. “What?” I’ve asked. “I’ve bought them only a couple of months ago!” This was clearly an invalid answer to him.
Meanwhile, we have arrived at the spot. While looking around, I saw stunning andesite walls, full of bolts and hanging quickdraws. Even when I didn’t know how to dry-tool, I was ready to nail it.
I’ve bouldered eagerly for the last 4 months. I was stronger than ever before. I was sure I will nail it.
“Hey, Adam” Mr.D woke me up from my lucid dreaming. Take me on belay. Until I woke up my brain from a deep sleep, the end of the rope landed in my hands. “Way a sec Mr.D I can’t find my reverso.”
Couple seconds after my little “messitation” I was ready. Climb on! Climbing!
It looked so easy and smooth. I visualized my dynamic moves exactly as I’ve seen in Petzl’s official video for new Ergo.
Mr.D topped out and it was my turn. Crampons on, figure 8 knot and I was ready to send it.
When hooking my tools on tiny 90 degrees andesite ledges, my confidence in showing dynamic dry-tool moves has quickly disappeared. In fact, I’ve turned to shaky salamander trying to scratch its way up.
So here I am, trying to fit my double-pointed crampon in the hole for a single point only. It was a pain in the ass. Mr.D was right. Obviously.
A couple of moves later, my forearms were pumped as my MTB tires for the race on the hardpack. “Uff, this is hard.” I was catching my breath. My legs were shaking. I was glued to the rock, exhausted but not willing to give up. That was probably what interested Mr.D enough to climb with me again.
After this “warm-up”, I was stoked to climb the next one. I don’t know why, but I wanted more.
Dry-tooling has sucked my brain in.
After this experience, I started training like a maniac. I’ve bought new ice tools, crampons, boots, helmet, clothes. I maxed out my credit card, but I didn’t regret. The dopamine reward pathway was in charge.
A couple of years later, I am still stoked for this dramatic sport.
I push on it even when there are no known routes. I am finding partners even when it seems that everybody is just rock climbing. But do you know what? I like it anyways.