The icemen cometh

Two 'icemen' after conquering an ice wall.

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone now and then and that is exactly what I did last week by going ice climbing and again this week by writing about it rather than family life.

To say that climbing the interior of what is essentially a massive freezer – that is in severe need of defrosting – with only a couple of axes and crampons to support my ever-increasing weight constitutes a departure from my comfort zone would be something of an understatement. I spend the majority of my days sat at a desk.

That’s not to say I’m a stranger to exercise though. I play football every week and run for the train every morning. Dithering is an important part of my pre-work routine so I’m used to it. Even though I have asthma, I don’t really get out of breath. This, to use a tired old cliché, was a completely different kettle of fish, however.

I went along with my best mate, Rob. He is very much and ‘outdoorsy’ person. He runs and cycles great distances for fun. This wasn’t the first time we’d been climbing together. We actually went rock climbing and abseiling at a campsite when we were kids.

One of my enduring memories of that holiday was of Rob somehow ending up suspended upside down on the abseiling tower. Rather than fretting about it, he waved at everyone with a huge grin on his face.

One of two icemen climbing an ice wall.


I think our first mistake during our day as icemen was not to wait for the lift at Covent Garden tube station. Instead we hauled ourselves up its 195 steps. Once we arrived, got kitted up had been shown what to do – several times over in my case – it was time to start climbing. Rob shot up the wall like Spider-man while I was still being shouted at for being rubbish at swinging my axes on the practice wall. Then came my turn. Gulp.

After I’d got a couple of feet off the ground, I was already thinking of making up some ailment or other to get out of it. I was bloody terrified! Telling myself to man up though, I soon got into the swing of it. Until I chipped a lump of ice off the wall, quite literally taking it on the chin.

One of two icemen climbing an ice wall.

Although this knocked my confidence, I somehow got up to the top, rang the bell and was helped down on my rope. The second time, after Rob had completely aced it again, I did a lot better and was starting to enjoy it. I got up to the top without too many problems. I was very pleased with myself.

For the third and final go, Rob tried a really nasty overhang. Despite a bit of a struggle with it, he emerged victorious. This one was not for me so I went for the same route I’d done before. I got half way up, lost my footing and fell off. I was left dangling in mid air with one of my axes left stuck in the wall. Oh well.

It was a fun, if knackering, experience being icemen and I’d definitely do it again. Hopefully without the bleeding chin next time though. How about getting out of your comfort zone sometime soon? Go on, I dare you!


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