Exhilarating, joyous, beautiful, and inherently exceedingly dangerous.
Data from a multi-year study shows that you will suffer 4 injuries for every thousand hours you do it, and that is an experienced climber.
Does that mean you should just avoid it all together?
What if that was your ambition? What if that was a lifelong goal that you really wanted to achieve? Are you going to let the fear of injury stop you?
There’s a trick to mitigating the dangerous aspects of ice climbing. It’s called the “stick”, and that is the positive stick your axe makes when it breaks through the brittle and unstable ice to get to the good stuff.
It makes a different noise. It has a solid stick feel to it. You know it’s bomb proof.
If you want to mitigate the risk of injury, insure you have a positive axe placement before you think of moving anything, feet or otherwise. If you aren’t sure about the stick, keep swinging that axe until you are…
Your arms may tire. You may hurt from all the brittle ice blasting you in the face. You’re cold, exhausted, and more than likely struggling with the lack of oxygen at altitude.
No matter how cold, or tired, or hungry, or exhausted you are… no matter how badly you just want to be done… Do not move, until you are sure of the next stick.
Don’t rush the process.
Do it right. Mitigate the dangers. Embrace the suck. But most importantly, enjoy the journey.
And keep swinging
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