I drive my right foot into the ice as hard as I can. The teeth of my crampons gnash into the ice like the cold breeze that bites at my exposed face. My left foot feels secure; two front points exert enough downward force on seemingly brittle ice to support my bodyweight.
I exhale, stand and pull my upper body into the icy curtain. My hands are wet and paradoxically burning with white hot pain in the -6 degree weather (Celsius, since it’s Canada.)
As I raise my right hand above my head to slam the pick ever upward, I gasp as my right foot suddenly slips from the ice. Instinctively, all of my muscles tense. I pull hard on my left tool, my forearm burning with the exertion. Without a point of contact, my right wrist is weak from the fear of falling and my ice axe dangles limply above my head.
I retrain my focus and find my footing and place the pick. The adrenaline tingles throughout my body as my mind reels just a moment longer. Then, my attention shifts to find my next placements.
Everything about ice climbing feels fierce and defiant. With good technique, you feel more in control of the situation at hand. But even then, you’re scaling a frozen waterfall. Yeah, it’s kinda crazy.
I love that moment of clarity: the swift transition from dangling from an ice tool, panicked, asking myself “What the hell am I doing?” to a composed, pragmatic and methodical, “I can do this.”