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The Power of Youth

The power of youth never ceases to amaze me. I have often climbed with younger partners and it keeps me on my game. Older partners always humble and inspire me, but younger partners always push me. Maybe it is because I am quickly approaching 40 and I still think I am 29, or maybe it is because I like trying to keep up.

I recently guided a novice ice climber at Lake Willoughby. The Lake is not the place to take someone who has only one top rope climb under their belt but Trevor is a solid rock climber and he is 21.

The day of climbing was a Christmas gift from his mother who was the Midwife who helped deliver both of my daughters. Both labors were uniquely challenging and Carrie had the coolest head I had ever been around in stressful situations. I figured since Trevor was a rock climber and he had the genetic potential to have a cool head I thought I should throw him into the deep end of the pool. It wasn’t with out his coaxing.

When Mt Pisgah finally came into view and our options were laid out in front of us we settled on the Last Gentleman amphitheater, it had plenty to choose from and easy access to the Tablets if necessary. We arrived, in good time, to the base of the Last Gentleman WI5. I gave Trevor and few tips as I led and trusted that my intuition about his ability to handle the climb was right. Trevor’s start was similar to many new comers to the sport. After the first swing a gear malfunction had to be dealt with. Hmm, I thought, this could be a long day. Soon he was at my side learning how to tie a clove hitch. The only critique I could offer was for him to clean out the ice screws as he pulls them from the ice.

I lead up the crux pitch and point out some potential rests for him to utilize then I go out of sight. Shortly after I have him on belay he was by my side breathing heavy saying how sweet that pitch was. One more pitch and two long rappels and we are at the packs for a noon lunch. What should we do next? Because of water flowing on the Promenade WI5+ we decide to go for Reign of Terror WI5.

My quest to find dry ice ended with my g-tex hood up, but the climbing on the first pitch was stellar thin ice and turf shots. I tried to position the belay safely off to the right however I ran out of good ice for screws. Trevor joined me quickly and settled into the belay duty while I started up the freshly formed chandelier ice. Steep ice and lots of hanging daggers made the climbing engaging. I tried to climb delicately to avoid fracturing the ice however I found it impossible. At one point Trevor discovered why the route is called Reign of Terror. The limitations of the belay left him with front row seats as the fireworks of ice exploded by. With calculated accuracy and luck I was able to send everything to his left and the falling ice was only a lesson to learn from. It took me 20 minutes to lead the pitch and establish the anchor. It took Trevor about 15 minutes to follow it.

I set up the two rappels and soon we were back at our packs. A high-speed glissade brought us back to the car and we made it back to Madison by 5:30pm. Just in time for me to watch my two daughters for my wife to get out of the house for a few precious hours.

The Last Gentleman/Reign of Terror link up is a great day for anyone and it sets the bar high for Trevor as his first real ice experience.

(Posted Jan 16, 10:25 by Kevin Mahoney)

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