During the winter, I tend to confine myself to the gym. Even though Boulder has plenty of nice days and sunshine to tempt me outdoors, I never find much motivation to venture out. Winter is the season for plastic training, or so I used to believe. I hate the cold more than anything. I started skiing when I was 2 and ski raced from ages 9-12. All I remember when I think back is how cold and uncomfortable I always was. I quit skiing for climbing and since then, I’ve skied a total of 3 times.
I went ice climbing once when I was 13 and hated it, for obvious reasons. My hands when numb on the first pitch of the day, then the pain from blood rushing back into them made me light-headed and nauseous. I cried and declared that I was finished. Last year I decided to give it a shot again. I went with Sam to East Vail, home to the infamous free-standing ice pillar, “The Fang”. There’s a few other ice climbs up there as well as some bolted drytooling/mixed routes. I found the cold to be tolerable, and actually enjoyed myself, surprising everyone (including myself) who told me I would hate it just like I did 10 years ago. I tried mixed climbing, which, despite what anyone says, is NOT easy and most certainly the most pumped I’ve ever been in all my years climbing. I went back a few more times last year, and even attended the Ouray Ice Festival last January to watch Sam take an impressive 2nd Place in the competition.
This year, I have been more motivated to improve. I enjoy the process of learning something new. Every time I go out I feel like I get a little bit more comfortable with my tools, my movements, and my strength. It is fascinating to be learning an entirely new and different skill within the realm of climbing, a sport I’ve been practicing for over half my life. A few weeks ago, I decided to send in my application to compete in the Ouray Ice Festival Competition coming up next weekend. I was accepted and am getting ready to compete – something I haven’t done in a while and am motivated to explore again with a different mindset. I used to be extremely intense and competitive about my climbing. In recent years, however, I have realized the importance of understanding that climbing is not only a sport to excel at, but a passion that is meant to be shared and celebrated. I hope to bring this attitude with me when I compete next weekend.
After Ouray, I will be traveling to Nepal for a month with some of The North Face team to help out at the Khumbu Climbing School, an instructional program for Nepali climbers who live and work in the high mountains. My job is to help educate and instruct the students on basic climbing safety and techniques. It is a really amazing opportunity for me and something I am looking forward to with both excitement and apprehension. I just hope it isn’t too cold……..
Khumbu Climbing Center video by Renan Ozturk