I recently had the opportunity to ice climb with a real ice and rock star, Majka Burhardt. It was my first time climbing with someone so accomplished; I didn’t know what to expect, how it would be. I found myself being more at ease than I would have guessed. I credit that to Majka. Like most climbers I’ve met, she is really chill. But it was more than that, I knew after spending just a little time with her that we were really going to get along. Besides sharing the love of climbing and writing, we had two more things in common: A tenancy to swear and Polish names that are not phonetic in English=perfect!
Majka led a clinic called Women’s Introduction to Ice at the Michigan Icefest. I signed up for it because I had only ice climbed once before and felt my technique was greatly lacking.
Majka began the class by having us move around in our crampons and using the axes on lower ice ledges just to get the feel of how to swing, giving us individual pointers.
We then hit the ice. There were four top ropes for about eight climbers, which meant we got to climb a lot. Majka suggested we climb our second route with only one axe. She said it would help with precision. Wow, was that good advice. It really made you look for that sweet spot; knowing it was your only high hold, you made damn sure it was secure before moving on. That was always her advice, make sure you have a solid hold before going on, don’t settle for a somewhat sketch placement and hope the next one is better while moving fast (I do it in rock climbing all the time). She said it created a “Domino” effect and pretty soon you be off balance and would fall.
It also made me much more aware of my body placement. I leaned with my hips and balanced myself much more. I also used my tool-free gloved hand at time to hold onto or lean on the ice for balance. She said that was fair. Majka was really good at assessing us at our personal level and challenging us individually.
By the end of the clinic, I knew I found a new passion. Ice IS nice, like the “Chicks with Picks” always say! I didn’t think I’d take to it so much, but I’m seriously considering Ouray next January and for sure Icefest next February.
Be sure to check out my guest post on Pembaserves about the event.