My First Ice Lead – Ice Climbing
Willey’s Slide Center (WI2)
Crawford Notch, NH
Super stoked! Did my first lead on ice today! The second pitch of Willey's Slide (center) with Geoff N. Didn't go too far....about 40 meters to set up an anchor on the face of a fat bulge. Placed two pieces of pro (very snowy pitch).
The approach (steep uphill) wasn’t what I was looking forward to. But once at the base of the climb, it was all but forgotten. The Slide looked different. When Sean and I were here this past January, there were hardly an rolling bulges. It was a different story today. There were rolls and rolls of ice, most of it on the left side. Geoff decided on the center of the Slide.
There was a group of 3 in front of us and Geoff and I quickly set up to come up about 20 feet to the right of them. In the meantime, a group of half dozen showed up, plus two more teams which set up on either side of us. The entire climb went on without a hitch. It was a bit chilly and few periods of sunshine, but hardly any wind. At the first belay station I stayed focus on belaying Geoff, it made me less nervous not to think about leading the 2nd pitch.
Once at the 2nd belay station Geoff asked me if I wanted to lead the next pitch. There was no pressure to do so. In fact, he told me that I could place a few pieces of protection and lower down if I didn’t want to continue. Or I could continue to a bulge and set up our 3rd belay station. I decided to go for it. We made sure I had all the necessary gear for my lead. At first I was a bit nervous and slightly anxious. But once I left the belay station and started climbing, I was able to focus and relax. I don’t know why, but there’s something about ice climbing that always relaxes me.
The pitch was really snowy so I didn’t have to place much protection. Just two pieces to be exact….in some small bulges where I found safe stances. My ice screws went in easily - love that color-coded handle that makes it so easy to place/remove. I also made use of a couple of my Yates Screamers. At the belay station I set up 3 ice screws for anchors, clove-hitched myself into them and attached the cordelette for the Direct Belay. I didn’t know it then, but I should’ve been much lower than my belay device. It would’ve made it easier for me to take up rope. Once Geoff got up to the belay station, he gave me feedback. He demonstrated how easy it was to take up rope when well below the belay device and he critiqued my belay/anchor system. It was a good day! :)
We ended up climbing the Slide in 4 pitches. That group of 3 (guide and two students) on our left took the “good tree” for an anchor so Geoff set up anchor just slightly right of the middle of our finish. We finished at the very tip-top of the Slide and that last pitch stretched out the 70m ropes to their very ends.
Back in the parking lot I had forgotten to hand Geoff his orange rope. When I got home I didn’t empty my pack right away. I left Geoff’s rope and all my gear in my pack and weighed it….33 lbs! Didn’t realize I had hauled that weight up and down Willey’s.
Overall, this was a fun day, but I do have to admit, however, it was tough. I thought climbing the Slide was tougher than climbing Lake Willoughby the week prior. Don’t get me wrong, the leading part was easy. But climbing that angle (Downward Dog Yoga pose) of the ice was tough on my calves. And shit, I even got a cramp in the arch of my right foot! LOL! But I really enjoy leading ice, and look forward to doing more leading.