Traveling north to catch the last of the winter ice has become a tradition for me. I am one of the lucky few who ventured there enough, in search of what true winter feels like, to have made friends with the residents of this hard place. The east coast’s tiaga and its shores may be getting milder winters just like everywhere else, but bitter cold continues to feed the seemingly endless snowfall that blankets this frozen paradise.
This year I planned my trip before learning of the week long thaw that passed over with the coming of summer. En route, conversations avoided the possibility that nothing substantial was left and we would be mix-climbing or abandoning our tools and crampons all together. Fortunately, there is a place that lags behind the warm weather, an “ice box” or “freezer” that feels like you’re entering another world. Such places often sport temperatures double digits below the surrounding areas – and this year it certainly did not disappoint.
It is here that Beau DeCourcy and Joe Cormier, my friends and climbing partners, found a new feature – the Ice Pillar. Beau refers to this route as “Shoots and Ladders” on account it is strikingly different every season. This year, whether it was a broken branch that channeled the water off to the side, or a new stream that had formed, we found a massive tower of ice hanging off the side of what is normally a deep gully. Without hesitation, Beau was the first to give it a go.
It is all but gone now, but who knows what surprises next season brings.