Iceclimbing has been one of those things. I rock climb a lot, but I've never really lived in a place where ice climbing was at all practical, and I certainly wasn't motivated enough to go on epic trips to go and try it out.
And besides, it looks scary as hell! I could accept the concept of toproping, but leading on ice was, and still is, a scary concept. But I still had to give it a go.
So here I am, in ICEland. The rockclimbing is pretty abyssmal, and I knew some people that did a bit of iceclimbing, who seemed keen to show me what it was like, so I guess it was time to make the jump, give it a go. One other reason I'd sort of put it off in the past was that it was a whole heap of new gear, none of which I had. I was sort of afraid of liking it too much, and all of a sudden having two big boxes of shit to move with.
Matthew had invited me climbing with him and his friends before, but the weekends had never worked out. Till now. I'd just bought my ski boots, so I had some boots that fit me that I could mount crampons on, even if ski boots are not exactly the boot of choice for iceclimbing.
No more excuses. It was time to find out if all the things I'd heard over the years about masochism, freezing, pain, wet, masochism, sharp pointy things, more pain and masochism were true or not. We drove out to "Whale Bay" and started driving up and down the road a bit looking for some good ice. We found some that looked promising, so loaded up, and started hiking.
Pursuing outdoor recreational sports in winter in iceland is quite a different adventure than summer. It's not the cold, or, not just the cold. It's also dark! There just isn't that much daylight to play with. You need to make sure you're out there going when it gets light.
Anyway, I'm afraid I'm making this a lot more dramatic than it really was. We trudged up the hill, snow covered grasses giving way to talus, icy talus and more talus. Going up wasn't so bad, but we really were walking an awfully long way up to get to a pretty small band of ice.
The sun came out, sort of. Blue skies above, but snow blowing around us. And so it began. Matthew, Chris and I were climbing in one area, and Josh and Sky parted ways to climb a different gully. (And they were never seen again! eaten up by the mountain)
Matthew led up, making it all look quite effortless, then Chris went, again making it look easy, but with a completely different style. Then me, in my big ski boots. "Is there anything I should know?" "Not really, just have at it." Excellent.
Well, it was fun. Hardwork, exhausting, really insecure feeling, yet things never came out. Very interesting. Once I was about halfway up it could even be called fun. I didn't hurt myself too badly. Apparently this is because I wasn't trying hard enough. I can appreciate the "leashless revolution" but I still appreciated having leashes.
We did a couple of routes on that formation, the second one completely turning me back. Too steep, too funky, too much for a little beginner like me. Especially one who forgot his lunch again.
And it was dark now anyway. We packed up, and started the trudge back down the hillside. Which going down was more like a deathslide, trying not to slip on icy talus and tumble to your doom on the roadside 500m below. This was decidedly unpleasant.
Then we sat around waiting for Josh and Sky to show up. And sat, and sat, and looked, and yelled, and sat. Eventually we saw some lights, and when our "hello" was met with "what?" we knew they must be ok. So we left them there and headed back into town, for some yummy thai food downstairs from my new place.
So, the verdict? I enjoyed it, I'd do it again, I could probably see myself being quite into it if you could park your car and have a nice short walk, but I'm not rushing out to buy myself tools for christmas.