A Day…in which I milk the goat

Thank you to Lisa V., a chick in her second ice climbing season that headed out to the Bozeman Ice Fest last month. She sent us her trip report which was full of photos and tips from her experience at the fest. You can check out her blog here.

Not literally. I have no idea how to milk a goat. That’s a Montana skill to be learned another day. Or never. What I did do was take another ice climbing clinic. Milking the goat refers to getting the most from your strength and endurance in order to climb more efficiently.

You might not know this (I sure didn’t before moving here), but Hyalite Canyon outside of Bozeman has over 225 pitches of naturally-forming ice. This is the most concentrated area in North America for ice climbing. This year marks the 40th year of climbing in the canyon. And it marks the 15th year of the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival. And it marks the beginning of my second season climbing as well as my second women’s clinic at the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival.

Reasons why climbing clinics are amazing:
1. You get to demo all kinds of high-end gear that you probably can’t afford on your own.
2. You get to learn from some of the top climbers in the world. Kitty Calhoun was my instructor.
3. You get to meet amazing people from around the country.
4. You learn that your body is capable of more than you ever dreamed it would be.
5. You get to hang out all day in a place that is breathtakingly gorgeous.
6. I’d list more, but let’s just let pictures tell the story.

So excited to start! Before lap 1 and before the burning arms.

Pro photo. Copyright Ari Novak.

Lap 2! More successful than lap 1.

Lap 4. Not as successful. That nonsense was hard.

Swing, kick kick. Triangle!

Not the kind of swinging I wanted to be doing…

Karen (in the gray) and Kitty (in the blue) try to unstick  a frozen rope.

In all, I did 5 laps (although I only made it to the top of 3). I got home around 4:00 with 8 hours of climbing under my belt and with muscles aching that I didn’t even know I had. So, what I’m saying is, Friday was a great day!

So, in summation, here’s my official review of the 2011 Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival:
1. Demo gear checkout- much smoother than 2010. Gear was back at the Emerson on time from the day’s clinics, we were able to get in on time at 5:00, and the staff had the process dialed in. (Or maybe they were volunteers. Whoever they were, they were great!). I loved the opportunity to try all kinds of gear that I haven’t tried before. Here is a quick round-up of what I demo’ed and my (newbie) opinion:

Me in all my demo glory.

    • – La Sportive Nepal EVO GTX boots = amazing. I’ve also tried Scarpa and Kayland boots, and for me the La Sportivas are the first boots I’ve tried that have accommodated the width of my feet. I even had some extra room for a heat pack if I wanted. My feet aren’t really that wide, they’re quite average, but apparently with mountaineering socks they become wide, and the Nepals are the first and only boot I’ve tried that doesn’t squish my poor toes together. As a result, I could actually feel my feet all day. And now I own a pair of them.
    • – Black Diamond mono-point Cyborg crampons = good. These felt nice and lightweight, I didn’t really notice them at all. I have only climbed in mono-points once before, but I think I like them better than a dual-points. At first, it was hard to trust only have one point, but once I overcame that mental block I appreciated having the more targeted, deeper penetrating mono-point. Apparently they’re also more flexible for mixed climbing, but I have not yet dared to venture into that world.
    • – Black Diamond Viper axes = definitely not my favorite. On the plus side, the grip was comfortable in my hand, meaning it was small enough for my tiny girly hands. For me, the way the weight was distributed made the axes feel really heavy, especially as the day went on. By the top of each climb I was exhausted. I was definitely happy to try out some Grivel tools at the end of the day.
    • – Rab Neutrino Endurance down jacket = super warm. The Pertex shell material felt strong and held up to a day of me tossing it around on ice, tree stumps, etc. without any escaping feathers. The double zipper is also nice for belaying, as you can just part the jacket around your belay device without having to bunch anything up or unzip your whole jacket. The Neutrino Endurance is also a longer length, which I prefer because it helps block any chilly breezes from finding their way up my back.
    • – Rab Latok gloves = super sticky grippy palms, but wetted out after a few hours. To be fair, it was a wet day on the ice and for the conditions, I thought these held up very well. A word of warning, my boyfriend has the men’s version of these, and the sticky palm decals are peeling.

This is the best photo I could get of the peeling.

    • – OR Extravert gloves = not as sticky as the Latoks, but still comfortable and I didn’t notice any slipping. I only climbed in them once or twice, so I can’t give much more of an opinion.

2. Travel up to Hyalite- the plow job was top notch. Probably helped by the fact that we haven’t really had much snow. But well done Hyalite plowing!
3. Check in on clinic morning- also more efficient than 2010. Free hot drinks and pastries in the morning and a very clear check-in point, as well as a volunteer who directed us to our clinic meeting areas.
4. Instruction- My clinic was led by one of the top female climbers in the country, if not the world. She was very inspiring to watch, although I think I learned a lot more from my instructors last year. This could be because I was a never-ever last year, but I think it was because in 2010 we spent a good hour to an hour and a half working on fundamentals as a group. This year we had about a 10-15 minute talk, a quick demo by the instructor, and then we were set loose. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything or that Kitty was neglecting the class. She was very good about calling up to us with tips while we were on the ice, and I did pick up some good tips over the course of the day, specifically about picking muscle movements to focus on and also some good stuff about reducing fatigue and neck pain while belaying.
5. Mini-clinics- We were supposed to break into a couple mini-clinics in the afternoon, but the anchor clinic never materialized. That was kind of a bummer, I’d really like to get some experience with setting up anchors.
6. Gear return- Super simple. And a volunteer was waiting for us with hot chocolate and optional peppermint schnapps. And there were more pastries. Pastries make me happy.
7. Evening events- fun and informative, as always! Great gear giveaways, engaging speakers, interesting films and slideshows.

Going up!

If you’re in Bozeman and haven’t tried ice climbing, you should attend this festival. If you’re not in Bozeman, you should visit and attend this festival. They let you demo all the gear you need, you get a full day of climbing with amazing people, and you feel so empowered that you think you can rule the world. No joke. The sense of accomplishment I get from ice climbing makes the runner’s high feel like nothing. For all of you out-of-towners, we’ve got a futon, an extra bed, and plenty of floor space. I expect to see you next December.

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