There are two outdoor activities I swore I’d never try: ice fishing and ice climbing. They sounded cold, hard, dangerous and, well, cold.

But when an opportunity arose to try ice climbing with Peak Mountain Guides at the Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colo.—widely lauded as one of the planet’s best ice-climbing destinations—I decided to reconsider. After all, it sounded like I’d be in good hands: My would-be guide, Dawn Glanc, had climbed in Iceland and other impressive-sounding destinations, chalked up wins in a few international ice-climbing competitions and secured all the necessary guide certifications. Plus, she was featured on a cool-looking poster in the Peak Mountain Guides’ lobby. How bad could it be?

Not bad at all, as it turned out. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The ice park was surreally beautiful, with frozen cascades that shimmered in the Colorado sun. Dawn outfitted us with axes and crampons, secured some ropes and expertly guided us down into the canyon, where we would hook up to the ropes and begin our ascent.

To my surprise, the hardest part of the ascent was learning to trust the equipment. Once I got the hang of flicking my wrist to imbed the ax in the ice and of kicking the front of my crampons into the ice wall, the actual climbing felt a lot more like walking up a staircase than it did technical rock climbing. And as I paused partway up the wall to take in the beauty, I realized the sport was far more accessible than I had ever imagined. A few routes down the canyon was a climber with a prosthetic leg and another who was in his 70s—not at all what I would have expected.

After I’d reached my destination height and Dawn had lowered me back to the ground, I discovered that another of my fears had not come to pass: I felt only the tiniest twinge of cold in my fingers and toes. I was thankful I hadn’t let my aversion to cold or my worry about the unknown or my fear of failure keep me from this exhilarating adventure.

I’m also thankful for the timing of this experience. As we head into the new year, it will remind me that things aren’t always what they seem—that when I keep my mind open and my spirit adventurous, my life will be richer, fuller and a whole lot more fun. Who knows … you might even find me ice fishing before the year is done.