I envy climbers. Their strength, determination, focus and shear courage to face an immovable adversary. To understand you are not out to beat this opponent, but have been invited to be part of it, attach to it, become a bit of it. And their clothes man! Always great clothes!
After our arrival in Elora Gorge, in all its glorious minus 32isms, we met our outstanding guide Fredrick Shuett. I probably should have known I’m not one of those rock climbing clothes models when the first thing out of his mouth is, “Ya got something warmer than that?” ….”Oh! Of course I do”, I chuckle awkwardly, “I brought coffee”. Haa haaaa ha h…ya, I’m screwed.
Elora Gorge is magnificent. It’s beauty is exquisite in the Summer season; cascading ankle deep rivers frolic past giants of jagged cliffs that watch from above. But the winter, the winter transforms everything. Enveloped in a blanket of white. Slivers and tears of an icy river peeks out from time to time on the surrounding ground. In the distance we see the 100 foot monster of a wall I’ll attempt to climb and I’m frozen already. As I’m about to find out, Ice Climbing is quite different than rock climbing
The greatest of those differences would be not having the ability to touch the wall with any part of your body. A very odd feeling indeed. Crampons are attached to your boots. Eight points, four on each side and two toe points, which are what you stand on (uh…huh?) when you are perched dozens of feet up attached to a jagged wall of ice above a frozen and, I’m very certain, hard hard ground. Wow. Did I mention I didn’t bring something warmer? Now, once you’ve inserted the two (yes, just two) toe points into the ice, you use axes (yes axes, two of those as well) to pull you higher. Today we’re using a “top rope” rigging system, which sees our ropes attached to a tree or boulder from above. I also have a belay on the ground who ensures that when I fall from this massive ice rock, and oooooo I’ll be falling I’m certain, I don’t go anywhere. Okay, ready to go.
As I approach the 80 foot mark, and after numerous rests, I know I’m going to summit. And as one of the very few remaining lazy axe swings penetrates the ice directly above me I realize I’ve broken one of the cardinal rules: don’t ever swing the axe directly above you. As my face snaps back from the impact of the 5″ x 4″ brick of ice that hits just above my eyebrow (another to the list) and as my blood runs vigorously down the front of my glasses freezing in time just as the droplet forms to fall to its certain death, one thought and one thought only comes to mind: I should’ve brought something warmer.
Travel ..warm not sorry.