Ice in Their Veins
Boulder ice climbers explain appeal of climbing backcountry ice
Eric Whewell on Louise Falls. Photo courtesy of Eric Whewell.
Permitted use provided by: Boulder Weekly
They say every scar has a story to tell, and in ice climbing, a sport which requires its athletes to wear 24 sharp points on their feet while wielding an axe in each hand when suspended high above the ground, climbers often have more than a few of both scars and stories.
Take University of Colorado senior Jake Kincaid, who, before dawn and without a night’s sleep, first went ice climbing in January 2011. The night before, he had kept his promise to take his girlfriend to Kafka on Ice at the Buntport Theater in Denver. To keep his promise to his girlfriend and an additional promise to meet other CU Alpine Club members at the Ouray Ice Festival the next morning, he planned to start driving right after the show, hungry for ice.
Kincaid packed up rental ice-climbing boots, crampons and axes in his car. The green digital clock in his car read 10 p.m. as he drove through the night to rendezvous with friends already asleep in their Ouray hotel. After 355 miles, a quick breakfast at the Denny’s before dawn and a 20-minute nap in the car when he arrived at the Ouray Ice Park, Kincaid started swinging axes at ice for the first time.
“At first, it seemed a little like a battle because you’re just swinging your axe into something and tearing apart the climb,” Kincaid recalls. “Then it becomes more like a dance, and you don’t want to disturb the ice and you try to damage it as little as possible.”
He began the day breaking off microwave-sized chunks of ice and falling every few feet. But that evening he was scaling the ice like a fly on the wall — and he was hooked.
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