Why do I ice climb?

I climb because it gets me out of my element. I give up control, trust my partner, and accept responsibility for myself and my body. 

I ice climb because I love the beauty and purity of ice. I love the mental and physical challenge of trudging through snow to find, or not find it. I love the feel of touching and kicking it, and the sound that perfect axe swing makes when it hits it just right. I love its hardness, and how sometimes the gentlest move is what it takes to win it over and ascend. 

I went on my first alpine ice climb in the 2010 winter. I had done a few rock and ice climbs before, so I thought I was ready for the challenge. 

We hiked, crossed a frozen lake, and approached our destination through a snow-covered boulder field. We put our crampons, harnesses and helmets on, roped up, and started our ascent. 

I was not prepared for the relentless raw wind and snow that blew on my face. My hands and feet became cold, and I had to swing them constantly. The blows came from underneath me, and as I hid my face it became difficult to perform simple tasks as removing an ice screw, clipping a biner, or even looking at where I was swinging the axe. I felt discouraged, but kept moving by hoping for sun and warmth at the top.

It was exhilarating to reach the top. But there was no sun. Only clouds, snow, and a stronger wind.

My mind became tired, and I just wanted it to be over. The food was frozen, and I didn’t feel like eating. My knees were shaking, and my whole body felt cold. I told myself, “The hardest is over, it’s ok... now we just hike (waltz) down the mountain...’’

The snow was waist deep. There was no hiking. We got the ropes out, and started to rappel. The rock was icy and slippery, and I sank in the deep snow. My heart was thumping. I repeated to myself "stand up, keep going. I see the boulder field... I see the lake...” and kept my mind from completely revolting by focusing on each step.

We butt-glissaded, down-climbed icy rock, crossed snow-covered boulders. I felt nauseous, cold, exhausted, and still had to watch where I put my hands and feet. On the lake, I slipped, fell, and had to get up and keep moving even though I really didn’t think I could.

It became dark, but we were finally hiking again. My energy came back. 

That is when I realized how powerful my mind is. When I thought I could no longer climb, boulder, hike, I still found the energy to keep moving by quieting my mind."It’s ok... one step at a time.’’ And it was ok. 

Climbing gives me the inspiration to soar in the toughest days of life. When I ice climb, I work to become alive.

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