With my most recent trip back to Ouray, I’ve made the realization that I am probably not an ice climber anymore. Maybe I never was, to begin with. The few days I got out to cut my tools on ice, it was as though everything I’d ever learned had been washed away with a single swing. And when you keep ditching a tool because you found an obscure hand jam between icicles, it might be time to admit to yourself: time to trade in the tools and go back to rock.

Even so, the familiar feeling comes back to hit you in the face (and sometimes via chunks of icicles) to remind your body how to move. It’s mathematics, right? Kick kick, swing swing. Kick kick, swing.

Connie Magee, human ice magnet

The winter months have always felt hard for me. For as long as I can remember, the thought of first winter frost has loomed over me as I’d start to bite my nails in anticipation in October. Maybe you are solar powered, like me. When the temperature drops, I lose it. One year, I quit ice climbing for a whole season. The next, I almost quit climbing altogether. The lack of vitamin D in the dead of winter does something really horrible to my soul.

Then the next year, I lost my shit, drove to Colorado, and quit my job.

Things have seemingly gone back to normal, or at least, I’ve achieved some sense of normalcy in my life since then.

Vail is two hours away from me now, much like the two-hour drive from NYC to the Gunks. It’s really not too bad for all that it has to offer—and when I laid eyes on the amphitheater with Ted and Kendra Eliason weeks back, my jaw dropped. I practically sprinted uphill the last fifteen feet to stand underneath it.

I’ll admit that I’ve never done any proper training. People have asked why, and my answer is usually something like, “Who has time for training when there’s so much outside rock to clamber around on?”

This year, I think it’s finally sinking in: if training is the thing that will allow me to attempt the harder things I want to climb, then I can’t poo-poo the idea anymore.

Watching Lucie Hrozova at the Ouray Ice Festival 2016. She took 1st in the Women’s Division and 3rd overall. Photograph by Alma Baste

There are plenty of things I wish I was better at when I’d started them (rock climbing, for one). I wish I was a better writer when I’d started writing. I wish I was better at filming and photography when Aly Nicklas and The Moth flew me to Africa and I picked up a camera for the first time. I wish I was a better business person when I started my road trip last year.

And then you start to look at anybody else in your field and you compare just about everything you can about them with yourself. From how skilled they are down to what they are wearing—I’ve even told myself: Well, I’m not as passionate about this as this person is. I could never be as good.

These little lies hurt us so much.

Alma Baste’s first time ice climbing brought me back to memories of my first time.

I don’t have the discipline.

I just don’t have the motivation.

Those are some of the excuses I’ve told myself for several years. If I asked myself honestly, the truth is that the thought of starting from the beginning is so unappealing that I’ve given up before I even started. But just because I don’t like where I have to start doesn’t mean I should never begin—it’s a matter of unlearning the words “I can’t”.

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