Adventures In The Cold

Work starts on the new IMC climbing dictionary

Jeremy Hall – March 2010

I would like to start by defining a few terms which we are all guilty sometimes of taking for granted.

ice: noun frozen water, a brittle transparent crystalline solid (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

climbing: present participle verb to climb ascend, mount, to go up, especially using one’s hands (Oxford English Dictionary Ninth Edition)

ice climbing: Lord into thy tender care I commit myself, especially using one’s axes (English Common Prayer Book, King James 1 edition)

This definition of ice climbing only occurred to me retrospectively when I was already safely back at Wythmoor Farm tucking into a king prawn boona with friends and loved ones, (well Steve, Martin, Eddie, Phil, Maddy, Al, Annie and Tom). Nevertheless, I confess that the Good Lord had not been far from my thoughts a few hours earlier amidst a fumble of gloves, axes, loops and gear high on the frozen wastes of Blea Water Crag.

“Will this runner never go in? Please go in Mr Runner. You are very small and could easily fit neatly into this teeny- weeny crack.” Fumble, fumble. “For God’s sake get in there you horrible little………!” Far below a lonely ice screw winked, next stop oblivion.

How did I get so high so quickly? Ah, that is how it is on the beautiful frozen Blea Water waterfall this Saturday morning in late February.

Why have I gone left and not right as I should have, this Saturday morning in late February on the menacing frozen Blea Water Waterfall? Ah, that’s because you are stupid and now you have to traverse and have you ever traversed before on a grade iii/iv ice climb? Well, no actually.

Have you ever been ice climbing before? Well, er, hum, no.

Then you will need to use all your experience of leading multi-pitch rock climbing. Won’t you? Yes, well, good idea, only, this is actually my first ever lead in a multi-pitch. Of any kind.

I turned to my last remaining hope- poetry;

The grim Reaper’s icy sickle
It is upon my brow.
The nut will not go in the rock
And I do not know how.


What is that upon my brow
The Reaper’s icy sickle?
The nut will not go in the rock
And I am in a pickle

Either way it worked and before long Steve was beside me making the belay position just that little bit extra safe and Martin was once more singing to Eddie.

A 200m, five pitch ice climb on the north east face of the crag. There’s so much more to tell. Steve’s bravery. Eddie’s steadfastness, Martin’s calm re-assurance. But I had better go and do some work.

One last thought. In the BMC Summit 57 spring edition it was reported that at the recent Kendal Mountaineering Festival, Alain ‘the human spider’ Robert, the Frenchman famous for solo climbing skyscrapers was asked what was the most shocking thing he had ever seen happening inside one of the many buildings he’d climbed.

“I once saw something absolutely horrible through one of the windows,” he said. “It was a bunch of people sitting in front of their computers having a boring life.”

As I say, back to work.

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