"Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain." - Jack Kerouac
it finally hit me, this whole ice climbing thing...
a couple of hours of skinning to reach the four pitch ice fall, under blustery winter conditions.
we aren't really going to climb all of that flow.
just a pitch or two, then we'll go skiing.
just that first pitch, until it gets steep and looks hard.
40 minutes belaying that 2nd pitch, the pitch after we were supposed to quit.
40 minutes standing under a faucet, each drip a fleck of ice when I brush it from my jacket.
the leader isn't finding any reason to come back down yet.
shake my free hand, stomp both feet, keep the blood moving.
yell at myself, yell at my hands, just stay warm.
two rope pulls; time to follow, i grudgingly remember.
that's why we're here, I keep telling myself.
my right tool sank high, water running down my arm and pouring from my elbow.
my right fingers, quickly losing feeling and strength.
my left tool swinging calm and desperately, smashing the ice from the screw and draw i must retrieve first.
another gust of wind, another wave of spindrift and water. the icy lashes on my left eye keep sticking together.
a deep breath, a delicate switch of the hands on the high tool. shake out your right hand and breathe.
scream until it feels better, switch hands again and get back to work.
rope unclipped, screw removed.
onward and upward.
the last pitch, the easy pitch, is all mine, bob says and hands me the rack.
looking behind me and below, to the blanket of treetops far away.
I notice for the first time the evening light has faded
we are standing on the top!
where i didn't want to go, where i knew i couldn't climb to.
but triumphantly I am here.
face and fingers frigid; body and eyes, warm and glowing.
arms pumped, tools dangling lightly in each hand.
doubts left somewhere below me, somewhere above that second pitch.
mental and physical ceilings, shattered with a swing of a tool.
fears, be damned!
what a savage and beautiful activity, this climbing ice.
now, just a few v-thread rappels.
will i ever trust these?
then a 'dynamic' ski out in the dark.
at least we have one headlamp between the two of us.
as bob said earlier that day, "if we were looking for comfort, we could have just stayed on your mom's couch this morning."