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I'm always torn when venturing out into wild places of this magnitude, to do a specific activity, for the first time. Really difficult to explain these emotions, however I'll attempt it anyway. The impressive nature of wilderness like this stump me really, mentally, physically, emotionally. They send my senses into a whirlwind, a frenzy. We are there to experience something new, clear the mind with pure wild, find calm, and disconnect from the false safety modern society places in us; all while doing the intense activity of climbing vertical ice. I should preface this with the fact that, although I consider myself a competent mountaineer and explorer of wilderness, I am in no way competent in the art form of swinging axes and kicking crampons into this vertical world. I've managed alpine ice sections on various mountain routes, but this is always a short lived part of the climbs I've attempted and, well, absolutely necessary at the time to continue upwards towards the summit and usually an easier descent route. Here, we are doing what is know as cragging, climbing ice for the simple act of climbing ice. I'm sure experienced ice climbers find calm and simplicity in this world. Back to the fact that I don't, at all. It is exposed, vulnerable, and the medium feels like it is breathing and changing shape every second you're playing amongst it. Large chunks of ice break off when you swing or kick, or for no apparent reason at all actually. Long screws are drilled into the ice along the route for that false feeling of safety. Sure they may hold you in a minor fall, but experienced ice climbers will say the number one rule in climbing on this medium is "Do Not Fall!"
Climbing on this medium is similar to rock climbing in that you look for placements to put each of your four limbs. You don't, as I first thought, swing and kick your way up. But instead, you make controlled and calm placements. Well, this is what you're supposed to do anyway. I on the other hand kick and kick again, and then swing 8 times before feeling confident in each move, then I swing once more and watch dinner plates pour down my chest and over my feet (Dinner plating is when ice fractures in plate shapes around your ice axe). Which actually weakens the frozen medium around you, ach! Okay, going to stop thinking about that for a moment. Now regarding the confusion; while all of the above races through my head I can barely breath because of the immense beauty surrounding us at any given moment. Whether standing at the base of these frozen waterfalls or while mid-route listening to the water rushing beneath the ice you are faithfully clung to, it's overwhelming, powerful. Completely and beautifully overwhelming..... And, I can not wait to be back there....
I'm lucky to be friends with TC and Ray who have the confidence and calm I don't yet have in this world. Thanks guys for rope gunning my ass up this terrain. I owe you both several beers on our next trip.