Ice Climbing

Why do you want to ice climb?

“Why exactly do you want to climb up a frozen waterfall?” This is the question I have been asked about two dozen times in the past couple months. My enthusiastic answer is always the same “Because it sounds so cool!” Still, I am met with puzzled faces and wrinkled brows. “Well, not me!” They reply.

That’s ok with me. I am learning how to swim against the tide and do things other people can’t imagine themselves ever doing or even wanting to do. I guess I am learning to be a bit of a rebel.

The rebel within

Calling me a rebel is pretty funny if you know me. I am as harmless as a mouse. My role has always been to encourage others to do what they are called to do. Learning how to follow my own calling , which more often than not seems to goes against the tide of mainstream, middle age, mom stuff is new to me. But I catch on pretty quickly to new stuff so it is getting easier.

Determined not to be dissuaded, I stayed the course. I called back to Front Range Climbing Co and asked if the waterfall was frozen enough to climb yet and was told YES! Acting on impulse, I booked my adventure and proudly told the world, including my husband, what I was doing.

Now, Dan is getting better about not questioning my sanity and this time he really amazed me! He is always encouraging, but sometimes he wonders why I want to do the stuff I want to do. This time he joined me and while he did not ice climb he came along and did a fantastic job taking pictures and video of my big day. He is awesome at encouraging me to do my thing and he is patient while I figure out just what my thing really is!

I did my mom thing and got Maggie up and on the bus and then we headed down to Colorado Springs to meet my guide and instructor Dan.

It’s all about the right equipment

The first order of business was to get fitted for the right gear. First we had to find the right size of climbing boot. Climbing boots are made to cinch up really tight and they have a special grove around the toe so that the crampon’s can be added later for navigating the ice safely.

I had to wear a lot of layers starting with leggings and then ski pants and a waterproof coat. A hat and then a helmet topped off my head. Next came the harness so I could be roped securely and belayed by my partner.

After all this I was already sweating but we had to have all the necessary gear with us and then hike in to the fall. The hike in was only about 1/3 of a mile but then we had to break away from the nice groomed path and work our way down to the stream below the falls and then up to the base of the falls. This was tricky but pretty exciting.

As we came up to the frozen wonder of Silver Cascade Falls my eyes widened in awe. A frozen waterfall is a sight to behold and I have only seen one other one in my life. The thought that I would be climbing up that wall of ice gave me goose bumps. Amazingly, I was not afraid, just excited and jumpy with anticipation.

Rescue Squad has arrived

I had to laugh because there at the base of the waterfall was a six-man team of the Colorado Springs Fire Dept. and Rescue Squad training on the ice! This had to be the work of God because I do think He has a pretty good sense of humor. No doubt that between my guide and instructor Dan, and the entire Fire Department I was in good hands. These guys could handle any trouble I might get myself into from a sprained ankle to a heart attack! I think God was trying to take care of me since this ice-climbing thing is a bit extreme for a middle-aged mom like me! Either that or my guide Dan had already called in for backup before he even got me on the ice. I think it was God. Touché God! Pretty funny!

Picking my way

After a few lessons in rope tying and using my crampons and my picks Dan declared I was ready. “OK, here goes nothing!” I thought as I slung my pick with determination into the ice, only to be amazed when it sang as it stuck securely waiting patiently for me to pull myself up with it. I learned quickly the trick of this is to swing your pick at an indented piece of ice with snow on it if you can find it. Test the pick to make sure it is securely in there. Swing your other pick the same way. Now you are ready to push off with your toes and step up. When you land on the next step on your toes you need to kick it straight into the ice with your heels pushed down. Try picturing climbing up on your toes and pulling up with your picks. As long as you tested your pick and kicked straight in with your toes it was pretty straightforward. Not easy, but definitely doable.

The dreaded screaming barfies

About now, Dan my guide, mentioned this horrible thing that I might get called the “screaming barfies” and that definitely got my attention. “What the heck is the screaming barfies?” I asked. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and my newbie student ears perked right up at the mention of this horrible thing.

I needed to pay close attention because I intended to do everything I could to avoid getting the screaming barfies!

Dan explained that newbie’s tend to be nervous and hold their pick too tightly. As they work their way up the wall their muscles tense up. When you add the outdoor element of the cold sometimes your hands freeze up as you are climbing. When you get to the top and warm up it feels like when your foot goes to sleep and you get that nasty tingling feeling, only multiply it by about 10, and the result is you just want to scream and/or barf!

Terrifying Visions

“Good Lord, what have I gotten myself into?” I thought as visions of me dancing around on the top of the waterfall screaming and barfing as the entire Fire Department and Rescue Squad and my instructor watched from below. Oh Dear, even worse, my loving husband would have all this on film! Resolute to avoid the screaming barfies I kicked my first toe hold into the ice and slung my pick.

Determined to maintain my dignity on this adventure I carefully worked my way up the ice wall with my pick, very cognizant not to hold it too tightly. Flashbacks to my youth made me think I was slinging my pick like Yukon Cornelius in the beloved Christmas tale “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!”

Before I knew it I was at the top of the waterfall and ready to rappel back down!

Going down takes a lot of faith in your partner and a bit of courage but once you get going it is really the fun part if you ask me! I “walked” back down the wall and high fived my instructor!

I am proud to say that in my four-hour private lesson I managed to climb to the top of the waterfall five times! Dan, my instructor told me several times that I was really doing a good job and was a natural! I never did tell him that was only because I was highly motivated! No way on earth was I going to get the screaming barfies or need rescuing by the Colorado Springs Fire Department Search and Rescue Team! No wonder I was such a good student!

All kidding aside, I had an amazing day on the ice. Dan was a patient and encouraging teacher, I had excellent gear and a beautiful Colorado day. What more could I ask for?

I do think my husband was a bit bummed I didn’t get a case of the screaming barfies! He would have loved to catch that on film!

My friends if I can do it so can you!

So I ask you my friend, “what’s next on your list?”

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  1. Wow, this looks amazing. Seems like another thing i have to add to my list :)

    • Bucketlistblogger says:

      This was very neat and not nearly as difficult as it looks in the pictures! I was pretty impressed that I was able to do it! I hope you get the chance to give it a try.

  2. Congrats! That looks like an amazing experience that I might have to steal it for my already huge bucket list! Thanks for the idea and inspiration.

    • Bucketlistblogger says:

      You bet Annette! I didn’t even know about ice climbing until I went on a rock climbing adventure with Front Range Climbing Co last fall. My guide was telling me about it and it just sounded so cool I had to give it a try. I highly recommend it. If you book through FRCC tell Brian I sent you and ask for Dan as your guide. You won’t be sorry!

  3. Heidi Shaffer says:

    YOU ROCK!!!! Way to go!!!

  4. Way to go!!! You climbed ice! I cleaned my house. Not quite as exciting, lol!

  5. vicki creigh says:

    I would have LOVED to see you doing this even if you didn’t get the screaming barfies. Keep enjoying yourself you deserve this after years of helping everyone (myself included).