Robert heading across the final snow field along the coleman glacier. It was a truly wonderful mid October day. As of yet there had only been 8-12 inches of snow fall and it was also beginning to melt as the temperatures were soaring into the 40's. I was excited as it would be my first day on the ice. I had been waiting with child like enthusiasm to get a chance to try ice climbing, and today would be my day.
The weather was spectacular. Warm and sunny with a few clouds hanging around to remind you that the weather could turn, if it so desired. As we left the parking lot there were only a few cars. It looked as if we might not have a lot of company.
The trail leading up to the glacier was in good repair.
I had heard of portions being washed away in prior years due to large melt offs or heavy rain. Yet the trail this year was in great shape. As we approached the glacier we could hear the groans and squeaks of the ice.
Robert started out showing me a few of the standard techniques. French Technique was first on the menu so off we went. Pied Marche, Pied canard, pied a plat, Crunching along the ice with that signature sound of all twelve points contacting the ice. Up down and all around we went like a child in a supermarket. I was going left, then I was going right, up the slope sometimes and down the slope.
Next came the transitional practice. Going from French to front points and then returning to French. Lap after lap we went till I was starting to feel comfortable with the balance and how hard to kick my front points in order that they would stick. After that round of 20-30 min. It was time to start working with the tools a bit.
How to get a good stick. How to pick a placement. When to use Piolet Canne vs Piolet poignard (dagger) and pied troisieme positions. As an American who only took two feeble years of French, which was taught by a Swiss instructor in Japanese. I can say it was, is and will be a while before I can sit down and tell you all of the proper French words to define what my arms and feet are doing.
We marched along around the glacier getting a chance to see many beautiful view and colors that seem to be only located in the mountains. Reserved for the private viewing of those Mountaineers bold enough to seek them out.
We finally headed into a space between to seracs that looked promising. Promising for: A. A 70-80 degree angle slope to allow me to practice my techniques. B: A section that would provide vertical Ice for a bit more challenge if so desired. Then it was cimbing time.
It was indeed a wonderful experience. The movements on ice are so very different than rock. It took a few routes for me to stop wanting to high step or attempt some boulder move. Robert was patient with me and I began to notice fewer and few missed sticks and better flow with my foot work.
There is no better feeling than stand at the top. I can not wait to get back to the ice.
A last parting shoot at what I would call the "Alpine Playground".
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