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The cold world of alpine climbing.

The cold world of alpine climbing.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It is true...I've made fun of YOU!


If you have worn a helmet rock climbing or a visor/face mask on ice I have likely made fun of you, at least silently, in my past.

I know, poor potty training. But it comes from honest hard labor and not getting killed..... yet.
While I almost never (never?) wear a helmet cragging on decent rock I always wear a helmet on ice or in a winter/alpine environment or on the typical limestone choss.

It is not my suggestion that you skip wearing a helmet or use me as a poster child as to when to or not to wear a helmet. Make up your own mind when you think you need a helmet and "live...or not" with that decision.

Helmets have gotten so light...the newest ones from BD and Petzl are down to ounces...literally half of my last helmet's weight.

But this isn't about helmets. The discussion is actually about face shields while climbing ice. I have to admit having more scars on my face than I care to. All of them from ice cuts. One in particular, a 1980 dinner plate on Carlsberg, knocked me out cold and cut my lip through to the gum line. Unpleasant all that to finally make Banff and getting sew up. I am not sure a face shield would have stopped the injury or brain fade but it might have helped. Either way not an experience I want to repeat.

Old habits die hard so no mask or visor for me. Well not until last season anyway. Two years ago I was finishing up the right hand side of Weeping Wall when for the first time ever, I popped a small piece of ice directly into my eye and it REALLY hurt! And I do mean REALLY hurt. I couldn't see and it hurt bad enough I couldn't climb for a few minutes. My eye was pouring tears. And it was later sore for several days. No fun on lead.


My partner that day was wearing a Petzl helmet and shield which I thought rather goofy at the time.....but not so much now. He wasn't goofy mind you, just his choice in gear was goofy from my inexperienced perspective. My first piece of damning evidence is the zebra striped bike tape he used to wrap his Nomics. '70s California hippy obviously. The fact that he has climbed a whole lot more ice that me..over a longer period time..and was still climbing harder...(the bastard!).... kept me from giving him shit about his obvious "goofiness". But I really wanted too. Right up till I poked myself in the eye!

That was my last trip for the season up north. I started looking for one of those fancy shields to add to my helmet on the drive home. "How about sliding me a pro deal on one of them fancy helmets with a visor, Jack?" "Nada."

Took me a few months and I still have a helmet without a shield but now one with as well. I pick and choose which helmet I want to use as the shield is fragile and a PIA to stuff along with the attached helmet into a pack. But I almost never go on water ice now without a shield/visor. So much for the old school label. Now I am one of the goofy ones. But I get to laugh at myself......every time all that nasty stuff bounces off my visor with every swing as I smile and "style" my way upward!

But if you show up with a wired frame football mask or looking like Freddy Krugger I'm still gonna laugh at you. Call it poor potty training.

1 comment:

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

There is a very good old school Scottish climber, Roger, who lost an eye to stonefall on the Eiger. Roger now unsurprisingly heartily recommends visors or some sort of safety eyewear for climbers.