Last weekend, in a planned attempt to escape the monotony of the winter here in northern Illinois, a group of us drove the 8 hours up to Munising, MI for a little ice climbing.
So we rented boots, some crampons, a guide and an awkward cabin with no bedroom doors and set out for a weekend adventure. The ice features were breathtakingly beautiful. The cold was bordering on extreme. Even with 2 layers of long underwear and multiple jackets, hats, mittens, and socks the wind still whipped through you. The first day we huddled in one of the ice caves between climbs sipping hot chocolate and laughing about how crazy we were. It was so cold, Dave had to keep the fuel canister in his coat when we weren’t using it so that we could continue our steady stream of hot chocolate and tea in an attempt to warm ourselves from the inside out.
Never having been ice climbing, I didn’t know what to expect. It was both easier and more difficult than I predicted. I struggled up the first several routes, never quite securing the crampons into the ice correctly and over gripping my ice tools, banging my knees on every lump in the route.
I eventually learned to keep my heels low and shake out my arms. I leaned to look for features in the ice in the same way I have to look for features in the rock, they are there, I just have to keep my eyes open to find them. I leaned to strip my outer layers off when I climb and change gloves frequently. Moisture, particularly sweat, is your mortal enemy when you are playing outside in the cold all day.
Eventually we would all be burned out, so we would pack up our gear and tromp through the snow back to the car. Hot showers, victory beers, and dinner at the local diner made us feel thawed out and human again.