In February, Devin and I paired up for a great day of ice climbing in North Conway. I had completed my second ice lead – a 50m WI3 gully route and I was in a great mood. Devin wanted to challenge himself, too, so I belayed him up this challenging route and then followed him up. The beginning of the route had thin, chandeliered ice that broke easily and rained down on me as he made his way up. The first crux of the route is where I took this picture; Devin had to awkwardly pull to his left and work his way up and left to get to thicker ice before placing his first ice screw.
The next 20 feet was steep but predictable before hitting the second crux, requiring him to squeeze between an ice bulge and the bare rock, balancing with tools, and backstepping one foot to rest a crampon point on a small ledge. It then required making a committing move to clear the overhung ice bulge, trusting and fully weighting tool placements before working his feet up, clearing the bulge and continuing up before anchoring to some trees.
As I followed Devin to the ice bulge I was greeted by a steady drip and spray from up above that immediately froze to my helmet, glove, and tools. I was hesitant to change my hand position on the tools because the spray would immediately freeze and make the tools too slippery to handle. Even though I was on top-rope, the combination of the pump, the exposure, and freezing drip tested me mentally and I forced myself to breathe slowly and relax my grip. I could certainly climb it, but not ready to lead it yet.
I got to the top and congratulated Devin on the strong lead. I’m glad I was able to get a photo to remember a memorable experience.