(Various ramblings and remembering from a week of ice climbing in Bozeman, MT with @nat_exploring)
Apparently the way you get off ice climbs is using a technique called v-threads, you drill two holes that meet each other in the ice and thread some cord through that. The problem is, the ice here at the belay is pretty bad and we’re having a hard time finding anywhere to set one up. Sun is hitting it now, and everything is getting pretty melty. After a few tries we get some set, and each go over how much everyone weighs and sort ourselves from heaviest to lightest. Those weighing most will rappel first from the v-thread backed up with a few ice screws. Natalie, who’s lightest, will rappel last after cleaning the ice screws and relying only on the v-thread. The rappel heads down a snowy slope and above and overhanging rock face, a failure of the v-thread here would likely be very bad.
“See you at the next belay, be safe, don’t die."
We’ve headed out to Bozeman, Montana to climb the plentiful ice flows in Hyalite Canyon. Only about an hour from town, this shady canyon fills with frozen waterfalls in the winter, making it veritable playground for the ice addicted.
Being from sunny California I don’t get a lot of chances to climb ice, and for years I avoided it religiously. “Why would I get cold and climb ice when there’s plenty of warm, dry rock here year round? Cover myself in sharp points and trust my life to skinny ropes, risk the dangers of falling ice, and be generally miserable? No thanks!” However, as soon as I swung my first tool into the ice a few season ago I knew this would be a new thing. The visceral feeling of impact, chopping away ice and the satisfying thwack of a solid placement were amazing, and it came with the added bonus of increasing my skills for ventures into the alpine realm.
Chad is a legend. It’s getting dark and we’re in the parking lot getting ready to head into town for dinner, but he’s just getting started, waiting for his brother so they can go climb in the dark “You just gotta drink enough wine and eat enough candy until you’re stoked again! You know, we have a thing here, if you’re not stoked enough you get whipped, 30 lashes with a rope!” “Fuck that I’m getting paid this is my paid time off! I’m going to make the most of it and climb!” I’m sorry Chad that I doubted you, the more we spoke the more I realized what a fantastic eloquent and completely stoked individual you are.
“With every new day, you have another chance to fail again!”
This motivational sign hangs in the kitchen, appropriately depressing.
“This ice is great! It’s hero margarita ice status!”
Look, margaritas are great, I love margaritas. However, climbing a big melting pile of margaritas is not necessarily ideal. As I follow, I’m hooking my tools into holes in the ice, that although great for hooking, remind me that I’m precariously perched on a thin sheet of ice barely attached to rock with flowing water behind it that’s quickly melting in the sun. GOOD TIMES. (That reminds me, the first place I officially remember reading about The Fun Scale was Kelly Cordes blog, the climber, writer, and margarita specialist.)
"They’re out of donuts…. Donuts and the Wu-Tang, I’d say that’s like 50% of who Tommy is. I’m often known for bringing big batches of like 36 donuts to work, you’d think it was because I love my coworkers and it’s for them, but really, it’s because I want to eat 24 of those 36….” Ramblings about donuts, which we never really manage to track down because the local communists bought all of them.
It's time to head home now, we set off into the night for the long drive. Alternating snow, ice, and various other meteorological conditions keep me on my toes as we drive, the last thing I want is to get the rental stuck in snow drift somewhere. Surprisingly, it wouldn't be frozen water that does us in, instead it's a large hairy mammal that appears suddenly in front of the car somewhere outside Yellowstone. I've got just enough time to react, slamming the breaks and swerving the car hard, enough time to help but not lessen the impact. The deer spins haphazardly into the air with an intense crunching sound as our hearts and car come to stop. Bits of fur are all that's left as we survey the damage on the side of the road and contemplate next steps.
Our rental limps into the gas station, dragging pieces everywhere, people look very confused. Here we perform a feat of automotive home surgery, ripping, splicing, and removing the dead parts. Onlookers are still very concerned, but soon we have an appropriately Frankenstein of climbing rope and vehicle parts to get back on the road and knock out the final 12 hours to California.