Rock to Ice, Part 1: Emily Harrington finds new inspiration in ice climbing

by Emily Harrington

Ice climbing ?!

I began ice climbing and mixed climbing this past December because I wanted to prove something. No matter how lame that sounds, I wanted to try something new and prove that I could be more than a sport/competition climber.

“You’re gonna hate it.”

“Ice climbing? Seriously? Isn’t that too cold for you?”

“Whoa Emily.”

Those were some of the many responses I received after I shared that that’s what I was going to do this winter. Most of them were accompanied by a strong tone of sarcasm and raised eyebrows. Thus, I set out to prove everyone wrong (even myself). I was going to be an ice climber. I was going to like it. I was going to embrace the cold and deal with it, and that is exactly what I did.

In the past few months, I’ve visited East Vail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Ouray, Redstone, and Rifle – all to hack at some ice and scrape some tools along the rock. It’s been a learning experience to say the least, but one that I have enjoyed immensely – for the most part. Ice climbing is scary, cold, and high maintenance; BUT, it is also exhilarating and rewarding. I have developed a strong liking for mixed climbing as well. The insecure, gymnastic movements contrast directly with my style of rock climbing (controlled and static) and I enjoy trying something that does not come quite as naturally as climbing did for me when I first started.

I attended the Ouray and Redstone Ice Festivals this past winter, both were awesome events with great people and climbing. I was introduced to an entirely new and refreshing climbing community full of passion and quirkiness. I met Ines Papert, who nearly beat all the boys (again) at the Ouray Ice Competition. I was in awe while watching each of the competitors attempt the 120 foot route and was most impressed by its complex nature. Competitors had to possess the perfect combination of finesse, power, decisiveness, and efficiency in order to succeed. My competitive drive has been absent the past few years, but I was inspired and motivated by this event and have made it my new goal to compete in 2011.

I have fallen in love with climbing and have chosen to make it my career because I am always captivated and never bored. It is always changing the pace and challenges in my life. The new places, people, and styles to experience are limitless. Ice climbing is just one other aspect to explore. After climbing for 13 years, I have found myself a complete beginner once again, and it feels fantastic. This endless variety is a never-ending source of passion for those who choose to explore all that this sport has to offer. My journey of exploration has just begun, and I am grateful to be a part of something so unique that never ceases to fascinate and inspire me.


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