A few years ago I made the decision to stop buying “stuff” for my children for Christmas. Most of the time it’s just a waste of money. Whatever I buy usually gets forgotten or lost into some mysterious abyss or “not what they really wanted” (like a $500 new Xbox One even though the 360 is perfectly fine).
Instead, I try to find something that will create lasting memories.
I knew my children enjoyed indoor rock climbing, but had not tried any climbing outdoors. So for Christmas 2012 I surprised them with an ice climbing lesson.
Little did I know that I had scheduled it during one of the 5 worst winter storm’s in New England’s history. Winter Storm Nemo it was called and the weather map indicated that we would be in the epicenter of the “WTF?!?!? Buy lots of booze” region.
We put on layer after layer just hoping it would keep us warm enough in the single digit temperature and the 30 mph winds. With all my layers and my helmet on, I looked more like an extra in a low budget sci-fi film than a rugged climber. My appearance screamed “newbie” and I probably should have taken this as the first sign I didn’t belong out here.
Nevertheless, we set off with our guide for the Frankenstein Cliffs. The name actually sounds more ominous than it is, at only ~ 200 ft maximum at our climbing spot, and is actually a popular place for beginners to test their ice climbing prowess (as well as the nearby Arethusa Falls).
Given their rock climbing experience, the kids seemed to take to it naturally and my daughter made it to the top on her first attempt.
I, on the other hand, had no prowess AT ALL. For some reason I couldn’t get my crampons to stick and I suffered too much from a lack of upper body strength. In the end, it looked more like I was crawling up the cliff rather than climbing.
Despite being out there for more than 6 hours, I never got the hang of it. But we did all enjoy trying something new and felt a sense of accomplishment from an active and fulfilling day.
We froze. We chafed. We ached.
But I don’t think the kids will ever forget the day they went ice climbing in a blizzard.