Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Case of the Blues

A bit of the blues
Robin's Egg. Glace. Tarn. Cielo. Crystal. Opal. Juniper Berry. Polar. Cloud. Cobalt. Iceberg... 

Last time I was on the Coleman Glacier, almost a year ago to the day, I was confident I'd never come back to do the same activity again. But there I was, having finished a hike that started in the dark of predawn, back at the edge of the glacier to do exactly what I said I wouldn't repeat. Despite my love of the vertical, my primeval self prefers terra firma. I can win most cases with that inner cave-dweller when arguing the safety of climbing rock. Gear, when placed well, will most likely hold if I fall. Climbing ice on the other hand requires an entirely different argument that I dont know how to win yet.

I'm not entirely sure why I thought it would be a better idea the second time around. But there I was. Jason Wheeler had offered to do another Intro to Ice Clinic for us and, before I even had the chance to debate with myself, I'd jumped on board.

Following the Jasons onto the Coleman
Perhaps I jumped because I cant resist any opportunity to get into the mountains. Perhaps because I verge on being a cheap dirtbagger and cant say "no" to free instruction. Perhaps because it gave me another opportunity to learn from one of my favorite instructors and climbing friends (Jason teaches through BC mountaineers and the ACC - I HIGHLY recommend you look him up if you want to learn climbing skills. He is the most patient, fun, thorough, confidence-boosting and tall! instructors; and its obvious he loves to teach). 

Whatever the reason was for saying "yes", it was Saturday morning, I was at the edge of the glacier, fighting a mean head cold after a 4am wake up and a 2.5hr drive in the darkness with only my marginally brewed coffee and a gas station doughnut to get me going. The thought "Why again do I do this"? teased my brain.

Why am I doing an activity I swore off 352 days ago? Why did I wake before the sun, on purpose! while most, including my dog, were still tucked cozy and warm into bed? Why, with a stuffy nose and sore throat, did I knowingly hike through the cold drizzle while carrying a heavy pack? Why was I putting myself in a position where I could fall with serious consequences potentially including stuck crampons and legs that shouldnt bend certain ways or chunks of ice the size of the warm pillow I left behind taken to the face? (I'm so good at the "why's?" - I must've asked a LOT of questions as a kid; sorry Mom and Dad) My cave dweller was winning.

But then at the edge of the glacier, the drizzle stopped and the clouds let hints of sky peek through. Sipping hot tea from my thermos, more shared jokes from the Jason's left me smiling while we took a quick break (the "Jason's" being instructor Jason and coworker/friend/instructee Jason). Then with the comforting feel of my harness securely cinched around my waist, crampons were strapped on, we tied in, and moved away from the edge onto the glacier. That's when I remembered why and when the blues started filling my head.

How many words can describe the different shades of white and blue that color a glacier? Changing light yields different hues, unveiling a multitude of features and textures to this living, moving beast of snow and ice.  Horizon. Mist. Snow cone! Mediterranean. Seagull. Azure....

I could tell you all the details of the day...Relearning how to use crampons in vertical ice (challenging). The strain in my arms until I figured those feet out (burning). Feeling incredible strength and power of my body when moving up vertical, slightly overhanging ice (wonder woman, hiiiiyah!). The excitement of seeing a friend try a completely new sport. The lingo and tricks I learned; "ooeys", "dinner plates", the necessity of nutter-butters...These little nuggets of goodness are, well, good.

Our fearless teacher helping us off down the seracs
But what I remember most is finding that thing I sought at the edge of the glacier; that thing that keeps me coming back. Its the camaraderie and fun shared between me and my companions. The satisfaction of knowing I can meet a challenge head on and the feeling of success in my body, mind, and heart at the end of the day (whatever "success" is; the top, the attempt, the new knowledge). The incredible beauty that my eyes beg to absorb from every direction, that no camera will ever do justice to, that only my mind can remember as it should be.

We all have our own reasons for getting out there. Next time I will remember mine and wont hesitate to debate the cave dweller who says "no." The arguments of potential pain, failure, discomfort, fear lose completely, and every time, to the arguments that say "yes."

Oh, and the number of words to describe the blue and white? Endless....

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