Learning comes from unexpected places. This week I had the honor and pleasure of guiding at the 18th Annual Cody Ice Climbing festival. Ice Climbing is a pursuit passed on by mentorship and climbing partners. We are links in a chain that connect us with climbing history. I'm very lucky, I've had exceptional mentors and partners over the years. My climbing style and technique is steeped in lessons that were passed on to me from the masters, Gadd, Anker, Josephson, Roberts etc. Passing on these lessons and continuing the chain or as I like to call it "the unbreakable bond" always gets me stoked.
The weekend at CIF 18 had many personalities with moments of both glory and pain. Climbing in the South Fork of Cody offers some of the boldest and most rugged ice climbing in the lower 48 states. In this cathedral of red mountains and cascading ice climbs I had the joy of teaching and sharing my passion with individuals from diverse backgrounds and abilities that ranged from a climber who was 3/4 def but had been climbing since the late 90's to a climber who was on day two of this awesome adventure we call climbing ice. I roped up with a student who was just punching his WI5 card and pro rock climber who was just getting used to putting on her crampons. I won first place in both Ice Fest competitions winning the tough ax contest by a large margin and tying for first place in the lead difficultly comp. Ironically though, it is the lessons my students imparted on me that really have resonated from this weekend.
"Atrévete" it's meaning is "to traverse your inhibitions" as two of my students defined it became a new powerful tool in my equipment for living in the mountains. I really enjoy this ideal / lesson especially because it came from two students who had little and no experience climbing vertical ice and yet it reveled profound wisdom.
First things first, yes there was a terrible accident at the Cody Ice Fest this year. I was not involved in the accident but I was on the adjacent climb and assisted in the rescue and stabilizing of the climber. The injured climber is a person of tenacity who saved his life by self arresting inches from taking a 100 + foot fall. He has my total respect as do all of the individuals present on that climb. The darkest moments truly became their finest hours, details about the accident beyond that I'm not going to discuss here at this time.
Teaching ice climbing brings me true joy. Perhaps it's because I enjoy this sport / art form so much that seeing and helping others achieve a higher level of climbing ability makes me so damn happy. Watching my students transition from poor climbing form to text book apex tool placement and monkey hangs made cold windy belays all worth it but the greatest rewards is what my students taught me. Two particular students on my last day in the South Fork stood out. They were both new to vertical ice climbing one was on her second day of climbing ice. Revealed in their newness was an abundance of PMA (positive mental attitude) and they decided to teach me this new word - "Atrévete!". As they put it they were there to "to traverse inhibitions" and they turned their stoke for climbing into realized style and form on the ice. But it was when tragedy struck on the mountain and I found myself two pitches up on a climb with a group of three beginners that I needed to "Atrévete". In plan terms it was time to kick ass and get everyone home safe. We had a climber who needed rescue and a group who needed a leader to provide safe passage down the mountain. Was it scary to see a climber fly off a cliff and out of sight? You bet. I can only imagine how my group of new climbers felt. We worked as a team, calm, fast and efficiently - "Atrévete!". Tonight my team is home safe and I'm thankful for a weekend of truly kick ass students.