Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On my way Home!

On the 5th of January we packed our bags into my Subaru and headed to the airport. I was sad to say goodbye to all the wonderful people of Canmore, but not to the cold. I left dreaming of alpine lines, and warmer temps, so I know I will be back.

When we landed in Montrose, Colorado, the sun was shining, the mountains were plastered in fresh snow, and we had to dig in the bottom of our packs for our sunnies. Peeling off layer after layer of clothing after a month of -30 to -40 temps in the Canadian rockies, the sun made us smile.

I have lived in Ouray/Ridgway Colorado a few times over the years, and every time I come back I miss living there! It is one of the few towns in North America I could imagine living in.

The weekend was full of friends, festivities, parties, clinics, hot springs, and competitions.

Despite the cold temps in Canmore I had enough time to train at the Vision gym, where there is an awesome cave with holds for dry tooling, and Haffner Creek, the Playground, and other local mixed crags. For the first time I showed up at the competition with a bit of strength and lots of psyche.

I was lucky to draw my climbing number towards the beginning of the day, but not too early. The morning was crisp and cold with a blanket of fresh snow covering everything, and clear skies. Majka Burhart, another competitior, and myself warmed up on some easier mixed and ice routes. We forced ourselves into the screaming barfies, it was our tactic. If we got them first thing in the morning, maybe we wouldn't get them in the competition. As I climbed my first pitch of ice, on top rope, with my hands gripped as tight as I could on my leashless tools, with the lightest gloves I could find, and tons of fresh snow, the goal was accomplished. It was not fun, but it worked.

The warm up was a fun atmosphere, a handful of competitors from across the USA and Canada traded ropes, smiles, laughs, nerves, words of encouragement. I love the atmosphere. We are all super competitive, and want to do well, but mostly I think we are competitive against ourselves, and love the drive of others that pushes us.

After a few pitches my time was almost up. The temps had warmed up to a sunny day and I knew it would be a perfect day for the comp route.

We get to preview the route from a distance and get an idea of what the climbing is like before the comp, but we are not allowed to scope it with binoculars, or photos, or watch anyone climb on it.

Local Hard Man Vince Anderson put the route up this year. I was for sure intimidated!! The route climbed 20 or so meters of grade 4 ice on top rope, a good warm up, to a belay, and then you are on lead. You get two or three moves up a rocky slab, and then the route is in your face. It is a full on roof, angling at 45 degrees, traversing up and left. I could see some of the holds that were marked with green spray paint to at least give us a chance, but I couldn't figure out what you did with your feet. And I knew for sure I couldn't do twelve figure 4's!!

I get super nervous before comps or before performing for a crowd. It's kind of funny because I am by no means shy, or introverted, but the pressure of performing weighs on me. Though just like Division 1 sports at University, or guides exams, I always seem to find the groove once I start.

Full of nerves, with a twisting stomach, I dropped over the lip into the canyon, feeling like I couldn't even remember how to rappel!

I got to the bottom to find a familiar face, Bill Whitt, with a huge smile, the organizer of the comp, super hard worker, and wonderful guy. He always gives a big smile, a pat on the back and words of encouragement.

I worked my way up the wierd, ice park, ice, or snice...Without too much trouble. It felt like it took me forever, but it only took 5 minutes. While at the change over point, from top rope to lead, I took a deep breath and warmed up my hands while looking at the route. I'm not much of a sport climber, or competitor for that matter, I don't do well at working routes, or reading them. But, after a few weeks of training and some good advice from Max, my boyfriend, I decided to read the route, or at least try to see where my moves would take me. The route was steep from the start, so I wouldn't have a lot of energy to waste.

I saw the first four or five moves, my hands were warm, and I took off. I moved up the slab thinking, this would be a crap place to fall off, but easy to fall as well, the slab was not hard but insecure and an intimidating start.

I reached to the first hold sinking my tool, and testing it, up and right I found a great crack for my other tool. Looking down at my feet i found a few nubs to move on and then made my first clip. After two moves I was leaning back hips pressed in and fully IN the roof. As I tried to clip the second clip, my not a good sport climber, showed itself as I fumbled the clip and had to drop the rope. After shaking out I gave it as second go, sucessfully. Moving up a few more moves, my arms were fully pumped. I did my best to shake out, but could feel the blood pooling in my arms.

I pulled with all my strength to have a look for the next hold, but knew there was no way I could actually move, and that was me off!

In the end I climbed well, placed second, there was a three way tie for high points in the women's division, so it went to time, I was second fastest, and likely placed around 10th overall of 20 including the men. I am content with my performance, but super motivated to take the training to the mountains and climb some trad mixed lines surrounded by big peaks back home in Chamonix, where I am headed right now. And, i hope to have more time and motivation to train next year, when the hard women come back (Audrey Gipery, Ines Papert, and Jen Olsen were in nepal this year trying an alpine line) and see how it goes!

P.s...I"m not canadian, but that's not a bad nationality to be mistaken for, he he he!


Krissy said...

Hey Zoe,
Wanted to let you know that I got in to the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc! I'm stoked. We can chat more at a line review or something, but I will be in your neck of the woods this summer (end of August).
Krissy (fellow ambassador)

pm said...

Hi Zoe

Great climbing girl! The pictures were amazing. Inspires me to go back to the Bow Valley and climb some more ice!! take care and keep smiling!

Zach Aument said...

Your pictures are amazing, I am new to the ice climbing world and am so impressed!