This is about ice. And about Icy. Neither subject is common, so I’ll start with something familiar: the iPhone.
The original iPhone shipped without support for third party applications, so users were limited to the built in apps. Before long, geeks who wanted more from their iPhones developed an “app store” called Icy, which allowed them to make and install additional applications, expanding what they could accomplish with an iPhone. (Shortly thereafter, Apple rolled out the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK) and the App Store – but we’re not concerned with that. Icy is as far as we need to go.)
Last year, I began to feel like an iPhone user sans App Store: limited, in need of something to give me a larger selection of options. I needed an Icy.
I love ice climbing. I spend winter weekends on the ice at Slot Canyon or Koocanusa. When ice forms in Badrock Canyon, I’ll be there, too. For the first few years I climbed ice, I knew my options were limited, but was fine with that. After climbing the same falls time and time again, though, I found myself wanting something new. I needed an Icy – quite literally. I needed to expand the options within reach of my ice tools.
Dad, Dane, and I set out for Snyder Lake looking for an Icy. If the trailhead was anything to go by, we were on a fool’s quest. Normally under deep snow in January, only a film of grubby ice covered the trail. Crusty patches of snow remained in clearings, but the ground lay bare beneath the dense canopy of trees. Worse yet, a warm breeze wafted through the forest, carrying the smells of a cool, late fall day. Conditions were dismal at best.
The effect was gradual; I missed the change until a few miles up the trail. As we gained elevation, the snow depth increased. Eventually I realized the snow was well over knee deep. Snow deadened all sound; the steep walled valley lay quiet. We hiked in silence. Distracted by the rough ridges towering on either side of us, I stumbled up the trail, my eyes on the horizon. Steep, rugged, mountainsides surrounded us. Dappled by cliffs of varying sizes, they looked perfect for ice. Near the lake, I spotted ice falls. Everywhere. Like a spread of BBs from a shotgun, a random splattering ice falls abounded on the upper slopes. Gobs of ice jammed into cracks, icicles spilled off ledges. Blue and green, thick and thin, columns and curtains, steep and stepped, the mountains were bursting with ice. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. Our purpose in coming to Snyder Lake was to climb ice. We had a rope. We had ice tools. We had crampons and harnesses, too. So far, so good. But we’d come to climb a small ice fall near the upper lake, and had only brought a bare minimum of gear. I still felt like a kid in a candy shop, but I only had ten cents, and the cheapest candies cost a quarter apiece.
Longing for what we cannot have only brings pain. So I changed my viewpoint. Putting aside the lack of climbing, our outing had been reconnaissance mission, a successful reconnaissance mission. I’d found the Icy, my selection had been expanded. The application was installed on my phone, so to speak. Now all I had to do was use it.