sign up for sessions every day. Andit helps. After feeling defeated thatfirst day – even cleaning my teeththe next morning, my arms
feelpumped – things begin improving. Ijoin a clinic with Trish Poulos, out of Salt Lake City, who explains why mytools are bouncing off the ice: as youget tired, your elbows float wide andyou don’t hit the ice square. So keepyour elbows in.
No chicken wings
. Andthe following day with Jason Nelson,I finally learn to ditch the death-grip.“Think of throwing a dart,” he says,“giving a flick of the wrist at the end.”When we return to the very climbsthat thumped me on the first day, nowI succeed.
ut of the
darkness shines a columnof light, of near-blinding intensity. It'sso, so close, but pain is taking over. Mystrength is waning and I’m wonderingif I’m ever going to make it to the light.It’s as if the juice is being slowly wrungout of my arms, like a wet towel twistedand twisted
, so tight thatjust a few drops of strength remain. Butthere’s no choice – keep moving beforethose last drops fall to the Earth. Delayis death.Yet again, I find myself asking
Whyam I here?
It’s three days after thefestival and I’m a few body-lengthsaway from topping out at Skylight, oneof Ouray’s most iconic backcountryclimbs. While I concede that its givenmoniker has a tad more delicacy, theclimb could just as easily have beencalled Butt Crack – the second pitch istwo cheeks of rock separated by an icycrevice that rarely sees the sun. Anda fall, I imagine, with pun intended,would have you in the poo. You’d bepin-balling and bouncing off eachcheek all the way to the bottom.
Sotshells are perect or ice climbing. I precipitation alls, it’s gonna be as snow,not rain, so you can make use o the greaterbreathability they oer over hardshells. Plus,they’re more versatile.
The North Face’sGritstone jacket
had enoughinsulation and wind resistance tokeep me warm, and waswaterproo enough tokeep out the ice drips.It's breathability meantI never overheated andit was sleek enoughthat I could wear itaround San Franciscoon my way back
When you’re belaying, which canbe brutally cold while you’re standingaround waiting or your partner to fnishclimbing, you’ll want to team up yoursotshell with a down jacket. Go big andwarm – really warm – like
NorthFace’s Prism Optimus Jacket
One o the best things about iceclimbing is that you get to swaggerabout with all manner o daggeredand pointy implements.
BlackDiamond’s no-nonsense Viper
ice tools are reasonably priced and a joy to swing
BD’s Sabretooth Crampons,
withtheir horizontal ront points, oer theversatility o not only being perect orOuray’s waterall ice, but greatshould you ever decide tohead to NZ and try yourhand at scaling amountain
Clint Cook, head guide at SanJuan Mountain Guides, has just ledthe climb. Did I say led? I meant
up the damn thing. Soloedit, in fact. And as if to maintain somekind of cosmic equilibrium, as easyas Clint found Skylight, I’m findingit equally challenging. My forearmsare searing, my whole body is on theverge of quaking and the tools arerefusing to bite. In the back of mymind somewhere, I remember Clinttelling me to stick to the fundamentals.It seems an apt analogy for life, oneas applicable to the office, or even tolove, as to climbing. When shit hits thefan, remember this: the fundamentals.Which for this moment, I synthesise tothese:
Screw and poo. No chicken wings.Flick the wrist. Breathe
.But I’m not asking myself why I’mhere because I’ve put myself in
uray is far removed fromshow pony snow towns in Colorado.nce the tourists leave, it seemsremote and somewhat lonely.