Have you ever wanted to climb a wall of ice? For me the answer is “ABSOLUTELY!”
A few months ago I went on a waterfall trip to see some frozen waterfalls in the Hamilton area. Tiffany Falls, a gorgeous sight frozen was my favourite of the three I visited that day. Upon doing research for the blog post, I discovered that people actually climb it in the winter. WHAT? For real? How cool is that?
I have quite a few friends currently that are climbers and personally I have always loved to climb things since I was little. I attempted to start rock climbing regularly decades ago but I never had a partner to join me and with rock climbing you have to have someone to belay you, so I sadly never got very far.
I am fairly active on social media and have gotten quite a bit of support from Ontario’s Highlands. They chose one of my photos for their #winterwander program and one day I went on their website to check it out. I came across an ice climbing adventure they had listed with a man named Barrie Martin from Yours Outdoors . It looked extremely interesting so I sent an email to him looking for a bit more information.
Yours Outdoors contacted me and gave me all the information I had requested and then some. The climb was done at a facility called Medeba Adventure Learning Centre in Haliburton on a man made ice climbing wall that is 36 feet high. You are provided with all the equipment and the session is approximately 2 hours long. Barrie sent me all the information and also provided me with some links of places I could visit while in the area. I was sold!
One day while chatting with a fellow blogger Lindsay from I’ve Been Bit , A Travel Blog I mentioned the adventure. She thought it sounded like a cool thing to try and so with very little encouragement, she confirmed she would go on the adventure with me! Now this was going to be a very fun excursion indeed!
On the day of the climb, with great information provided by Ontario’s Highlands, I’d solo winter camped in my homemade tipi at a really cool place called South Wind Motel & Campground. South Wind is run by a wonderful man named Ray and is located in Minden, about a half hour away from Medeba. (I will fill you in about that trip in the next post! It’s almost done and it was awesome!!)
Sunday, I’d spent my morning snowshoeing, looking for moose and then tearing down my site, anxiously anticipating the great adventure of the day, climbing a giant wall of ice!!!
I arrived at Medeba around 1:30pm. We were to meet at approximately 1:45pm with the activity going from 2-4pm. Soon everyone arrived including a very happy, bubbly girl named Lindsay. We all introduced each other, met Barrie and then Amanda and Jamie said a few words about the facility. After that, we headed over to the ice climbing wall. I was sooo excited !!!
Once we got situated at the wall Brianna and Jamie, two very wonderful representatives of Medeba, showed us how we would conquer the wall, in step by step form. I was actually very impressed with both of their public speaking skills and how they related to the group. Brianna first went over the ice axe and the correct way to ‘flick’ it into the wall and then Jamie explained how to kick the boots into the ice to engage the crampons.
Next Jamie went over to the wall to demonstrate the proper way to do both previously discussed excercises and that got me even more excited. I could not wait to try this and my anticipation and excitement were growing minute by minute!
After the mini demo by Jamie we headed in to get our gear and get a few more instructions on how to prepare ourselves for the climb. Brianna explained everything in full details, showing us the harness and how to put it on the right way and did it with finesse and humour.
Jamie followed by discussing the boot a bit further and Brianna started getting us sizes so we could get our feet into them and get started on our adventure! 🙂
Once we were all fitted with our helmets, safety glasses, boots, harnesses and big huge smiles on our faces, we ventured back outside to start climbing! When Brianna asked who wanted to go first, I quickly put up my hand and said, ME !!!! Shortly after, I was at the base of the wall, getting carabiners attached to my harness so I could be on belay. There were two questions we had to ask before we started to climb:
- Am I on belay?
- May I climb now?
I started with what I thought looked like an easy wall. HAHAHAHA! I think I made it up about 3 feet? I was deflated pretty quickly and realized that this would not be a walk in the park! After only about 10 minutes on the wall, I could barely hold the axe or move my hands properly so I took a break! This activity was incredibly challenging and my hopes of making it anywhere near the top vanished into thin air! POOF!
I took a break for a bit and routed Lindsay on and took some photos for her. Then it was my turn again. I decided I would try the other wall. Medeba has two climbing walls. One wall is on a slight slant slant and an even grade, the other one is pretty much vertical with large ledges in it. (below). For some reason I thought this wall might be easier. HAHAHAHA! Not even close! I don’t think I got further than in the picture below. Time for another break!
While waiting for my next turn, I checked out the situation on the other wall in between snapping photos. There were four people in our group today and the other participants looked to be having just as much fun as we were. I was still a little bit determined but it was fading fast. Brianna just kept belaying us over and over again.
After the step wall, (that’s what I’ve named it! ) I went back to the first wall. A vertical wall was definitely not going to let me up to the top of it and as I hadn’t tried the left side of the slightly slanted wall, I was hopeful this would be where I got my big break and made it up at least a bit farther than the other attempts?
Instead I broke the wall! I was really starting to get worried. Our time was running out and I was no where close to even getting up the wall a third or a quarter of the way. After Lindsay made her attempt, I decided to give it one last try. I HAD to do this. I HAD TO!!! If my friends could climb silver peak, with full gear and camp in the backcountry today, I could surely scale a wall of ice with the proper equipment. I was strong and I was determined and I had to do this!!!
I returned back to the first place I started, the right side of the slanted wall. I had only made it up this section, maybe 4-5 feet max but it was the furthest I’d gone and it looked like the best option to me for some type of success. Success at this point being me, getting higher than 4-5 feet! HAHAHA.
I struggled in many spots, but everyone on the ground was now done their climbs and watching me and they all shouted words of encouragement! There were a few places where I could’ve easily given up. I was spent. My arms were shaking, my legs were shaking, my butt hurt??? … And suddenly I was boiling hot… but then… I got angry, determined and somehow, I got closer to the top!
I was so close and I honestly was ready to give up. But then I heard the voices, and they kept making me think I could go farther. My mind said, I’ve gone WAY farther than I honestly thought I could only 15 minutes before. I was already proud of myself and could happily give in, but then I heard Brianna. She didn’t say “you can do it” or “don’t give up” like everyone else did, and don’t get me wrong, that totally did help…. but what she did was very clever. She got me focused back on the climb and specifically just on one move. I heard her say, move your left foot and what she did totally worked! I looked down at my left foot, not the entire picture, not how much space was left between me and the top, just my one foot, all alone. Then I realized she was right!! I could move my left foot, there was a spot better suited for it just above where it was. I made a few moves in order to move my foot and then moved it to the spot that I’d seen and that got me up just a bit higher, enough to find a new place to throw my axe and another and suddenly, after a few more grunts and groans…
I was at the top!!!! THAT’s RIGHT !! THIS CAMPER CHRISTINA CHICK MADE IT TO THE TOP OF A 36′ ICE WALL !! Yeah buddy!!!
When Brianna lowered me down to the ground, I had no feet. I just flailed over to the side of the wall and hit the snow. I honestly wanted to lay there and not get up for an entire day! I was exhausted and elated and sooooo proud of myself! Everyone was so supportive and wonderful, and I heard them all talking to me, but I was just in a daze. I sat on the bench for a moment and gathered myself, took my gloves off my shaking hands and had a long drink of water. I beamed from ear to ear and stared up at the wall… the wall that I broke that did not break me!
We all headed back into the equipment room, took off our gear and had a snack provided by Barrie. I thought this was really thoughtful! He had apples, clementines, bananas, trail mix, water and tea. I was still euphoric and forgot to take a photo, sorry Barrie. I just sat on the bench still not quite believing what just happened? I honestly have no idea how after all those not even close attempts, I had made it to the top? I guess with determination and the right encouragement and support, you really can do amazing things! Everyone climbed that wall with me that day, so thank you to all of you that were there providing the awesome support.
We watched Brianna put the ropes away and had our snacks and happily chatted with everyone in the group, taking our boots back off, putting our helmets and harnesses away and getting back into our own winter accessories.
I’d have to say my favorite part of the day, besides meeting Lindsay and all the awesome people involved, was making it to the top!!!! LOL
Lindz and I took a few fun pictures at the wall before heading back to the parking lot to get into our comfy vehicles. I am so happy she came on this adventure with me. She was the perfect person to spend the afternoon with. Very fun, energetic and supportive, and full of just as much energy as me. Thanks Lindz, I hope you had as good a time as I did and I appreciate all the great photos you took of me. (photo credits: Lindsay Davies)
HUGE thank you to Yours Outdoors, aka Barrie Martin, who answered all my questions, many emails and provided me with information above and beyond what was required. Thanks for thinking of bringing us reenergizing snacks and for all the photos you took. I can not wait to see them and I hope to have some more adventures with you in the near future.
Thanks also to Jamie and Brianna. I am still amazed at how much knowledge and skill the two of you have and how well you are suited to handle people attempting this challenging but fun activity.
I hope you enjoyed my post! As my lovely climbing partner is also a fantastically talented blogger and survived this great adventure alongside me she’s written an awesome post on 8 Reasons Why You Should Try Ice Climbing ! Click on the title to check it out!
Thanks so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, advice or just want to say hi, please leave a comment.
Hope to see you again soon!