Friday, December 16, 2011

Learning to Fall

My crampons aren't ideal for ice climbing and my dad has already lost an axe, martyred to the ice gods below.

He's at the top of the 2nd pitch on the left side of Gibraltar Falls. We communicate through walkie talkies because I can neither see nor hear him.

I'm looking up the steepest pitch of vertical ice I have ever attempted to climb. The crux. I get my axe into a bomber hold at the top when my feet give way and I fall ten feet down the ice, my knees soon to look like some one took a baseball bat to them.

I fell.

And with my ice axe 10 feet above my head I had no choice but to give up.

I failed.

Having grown up with annual father-daughter trips into the mountains I learned at an early age to never fall. Falling while alpine climbing can have deadly results. So I never did.

My dad taught me to ice climb when I was 18 years old and in all that time I have never given up on a pitch, some of these times it was my dad who wouldn't let me give up. He always told me I could do it, and I always did.

But I would rarely ever fall. Some of the toughest times I have experienced while ice climbing have been to trust the rope. To fall and trust that my dad has me on belay. To clip onto a lousy screw in the ice and just hang back. Sitting on the nothing that only being hundreds of feet in the air can give you.

I am finally learning how to fall.

And although it feels a lot like failing, I count this as one of my most successful days of ice climbing so far.

And one more thing: thanks dad. For everything.

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