One Last Go at Pitchoff Right?

I had a guided trip in Lake Placid yesterday; a party of 8 scheduled that dwindled to 4 by the time it reached Eastern Mountain Sports, so it turned out to be a pretty easy day. Short, as well. The group was tired from their long work week and came expecting the predicted 50 degree temps; when that didn’t happen (high of 40, dropped to 35 by noon), people got cold.

We had a good time anyway. I set a TR on the long, easy line between the overhangs on Pitchoff Right. I tried to set a TR just right of the rightmost overhang, but rappelling down it, decided the ice was too dicey. I suppose every guide has a “Doh!” moment, and that was mine. I ended up setting another TR on the steep pillar just left of my first line.

The guys worked through the “easy” line, then began attempting the pillar, without much success. Bruce and I both tied on and demonstrated some strength-saving techniques and that seemed to help: one person made the entire pillar, and another doubled his high point – might have made it except he fell and left a tool in the ice, so he had to climb back up single-tool.

Speaking of which, for those of you struggling to improve basic ice climbing skills, that is a great exercise. TR some steep ice and leave one tool behind. It’s likely you will have to utilize some ice holds along the way, an excellent skill in its own right, but you’ll also have to develop precision balance as you stand on your front points, gently wiggle that lonely pick out, then raise it high for another swing. Plan your foot strategy, and expect to make many hop-steps. Finally, if you tend to whack the axes and haul, this will force you to look for stances, rests, and body-scums you would otherwise pass by.

The weather came in bigtime overnight. We woke to 5cm of sodden glop and a slushy mix still falling this morning. Definitely an “off” day for climbing outdoors. March is proving to be a tough month, which comes as no surprise.

As Bruce tore down our rigs yesterday, I played around on the ice at the bottom, and realized something I’ve never felt so strongly in any previous season: I’m going to miss ice climbing. Perverse and ludicrous as the sport may be, this season’s helpings addicted me. I know I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s really quite a transition. There was a time I considered not ice climbing any more. Expensive, dangerous, usually exhausting, often miserable; nevertheless something clicked this season, and I’m almost disappointed to have it end.

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