I had the opportunity to go through Spry "on the rocks" with Mike S. and Bluu Luke this past Saturday. I had not been through Spry before and was excited to see it as well as tromp through with two guys with TONS of experience. I also go to test out the SQWUREL! We took the alternate approach up and quickly got nice and toasty in the full sun. On the back side of the approach, it cooled fast. We were greeted with more than a few patches of snow and many icy spots. The first part of the drainage was frozen solid with only the sound of liquid water flowing under the ice. This included the first rap. We were easily able to scramble down and around to the "landing" where the anchor was. I belayed Mike from about 30 feet up as he nimbly worked his was across the eight or so feet of snow and ice. It was easy enough to get purchase on the snow across the first few feet. The last few were solid ice with a nice thin layer of water on the top - i.e. zero friction. Mike made his way across easily enough. I headed down and hooked into the rope attached to Mike's rap device who was in turn hooked into the anchor. He kept the rope tight as I not-so-nimbly started my way across. Half way there, I started to feel uncomfortable. I'm 6'5" (high center of gravity) and not the most sure footed person on the planet. I was beginning to think of an alternate plan to get down the rap that didn't require me having to get all the way to the anchor. I shifted my weight just a tad and immediately lost my balance. I hit the ice and started skidding down hill. Fortunately Mike had kept the belay tight because almost as quickly as I had started going down, I also started pendulum-ing towards the anchor. Once the rope went completely tight, Mike less than gracefully sat down (was pulled down)... and it was over. I got to my feet and pulled myself up to the anchor. Luke was the next one to cross. Rather than me belay him, he belayed himself. Half way across, in the same spot, he lost his footing as well. As he pendulum-ed down, the rope started swinging towards my feet. Having just experienced the same physics, I knew it was coming and easily stepped over it. We had a good laugh and away we went. The fall itself did not really scare me. We had set up a good belay and I was just along for the ride. If the belay failed, there was nothing I could do. The failure was not going to be because of something we did wrong. We had a safe plan. I was simply in Fate's hands. However, my blood pressure was up just a bit after we recovered. That was more from the suddenness of the event rather than the close call, though. We discussed what happened when we were down from the first rap. Lesson one was this was an event that reinforced why we have safety practices. Unfortunately, most are written in blood. Perhaps sometimes we get a little bit complacent and rush something for no good reason. Clearly the icy conditions warranted a belay. But how many times to you pass up on one because you don't want to waste the time or think asking for one is "weak?" How many times do you pass up a fireman's for the same reasons? For me, lesson two was our lack of a pre-brief of the belay. It was a non-standard horizontal belay on ice. Had we taken a few moments to think about the physics, I think we would have quickly reached the conclusion that a self belay was the better option. I don't think there was anything wrong with what we did. The belay could have just been "cleaner". Luke had the experience of our lack of forethought and went with that option. His fall was a non-event. As I have gained more experience, I've been able to develop habit patterns and best practices that I can rely on to keep me safe. Frequently it is something that will require a little more thought and some extra time before, during or after a rappel. But that's all it costs... time. Hopefully I will never make the wrong decision that will cost someone or myself more than that. Before After SQWUREL!