Places to Be: ice climbing in Marble Canyon

Wednesday, January 28, 6:11 p.m.

I have two midterms, several assignments due, and a book to read for next week. So where am I? No, I'm not drinking away my sorrows at Pit Night or hunched over a textbook in Koerner library. I'm in the basement of the SUB in the VOC Clubroom.

7:03 p.m.

I fumble trying to get crampons over my boots for the first time. They finally click into place and I pick them, my boots, harness and helmet up and run back to my door and get a start on all my work.

Thursday, January 29, 9:01 p.m.

I text my parents, telling them I'm going ice climbing this weekend. They are anxious over the prospect. I explain it’s safe (as safe as climbing up a frozen waterfall with a bunch of metal spikes can be). I also explain I love adventures; this is what I live for. New experiences and new places, all in the beauty of the outdoors. My dad, a fellow adventurer, understands.

11:53 p.m.

I have a similar conversation with close friends. They have a hard time understanding. I find it hard to explain.

Friday, January 30, 3:00 p.m.

I run back from class and finish packing my bag. I triple-check that I've packed my batteries, all of my jackets, my helmet and my harness.

4:41 p.m.

The Modo Van, already crammed full of five fellow VOCers and their gear pulls up. We faff (Fuck Around For Fucking ever) packing the car just to do it all over again when we pick up our seventh passenger.

7:35 p.m.

Mandatory Tim Horton’s stop.

9:01 p.m.

We pull over on the side of the highway somewhere outside of Cache Creek. The nearly full moon reveals a side of British Columbia foreign to me. There are few trees, a thin layer of snow and rolling mountains. The moon reflects off of the snow and the whole landscape glows. We take in the outlines of mountains and the stars bright enough to be seen through the brilliant moon. Unlike Vancouver and Costal B.C., there is little precipitation here and sparse trees. It’s beautiful, in a more minimalistic way. The cold forces us to cram back into the van.

10:30 p.m.

We arrive at Marble Canyon Provincial Park, set up our tents and crawl into our sleeping bags. I pull the hood closed, cinching it tight over my face. It’s cold.

Saturday, January 31, 8:30 a.m.

I wake up and scrape the ice from my glasses and dive from my sleeping bag into several layers. Hot oatmeal warms me as it slides down my throat. The anticipation of ice climbing for the first time drives us all to eat and pack for the day quickly. It’s also a great technique to stay warm.

11:00 a.m.

After hiking across the frozen lake and up above the frozen waterfall to set up ropes, I find myself belaying several climbers. I'm grateful for my crampons and heavy mountaineering boots. The slope leading to the base of the climb is covered in centimetres of slick ice.

All the beginners are clumsy with their ice axes and crampons at first, making climbing the wall of frozen water difficult. I watch carefully, noting what works and what doesn't in hopes to be more successful.

12:30 p.m.

I am not more successful. After 15 minutes of swinging madly, kicking the crap out of the ice and being pelted with falling ice, I make it less than half way up before I'm so pumped I can hardly hold my tools.

When my feet are on solid (icy) ground again I'm given several tips: “Hit like you screw, kick like you poo.” “Make a triangle, with your feet in the base.” “Swing less, use your feet more.” “Trust your tools.”

I'm tired and hardly listen.

5:00 p.m.

I've attempted several more climbs. I enjoy one in particular, named Icy B.C. (very funny). There is an ice cave part way up that I climb into. The ceiling of the cave is plastered with a mosaic of icicles.

10:00 p.m.

Couscous and sausage is poorly cooked but it doesn't matter, it’s warm and I'm hungry. We light a fire and huddle around it, passing around hot chocolate, flasks and chocolate bars. We laugh at the day’s events, old stories and memorable characters in the club. Alfred says he will climb naked to be written about in The Ubyssey.

Sunday, February 1, 1:00 a.m.

I wake up after losing my hat. My head is freezing. I spend 10 minutes looking for it before I realize I'm lying on it.

4:33 a.m.

I wake up with a start. What was that? “Ba ba ba baaaaa, good morning!” Someone’s alarm is going off -- an a cappella good morning. I curse whomever’s phone it is.

10:00 a.m.

I discover it was my tentmate’s phone. Damn him.

2:00 p.m.

My feet slip and I hang from my tools, my forearms screaming in opposition. I manage to kick a crampon into the ice and shake out one arm at a time. I'm halfway up Icy B.C., determined to finish the climb this time.

2:07 p.m.

I'm lowered off of Icy B.C.. I no longer have the strength to hold my ice tools.

4:00 p.m.

Alfred does not climb naked.

10:30 p.m.

I unlock my dorm room. Another week of work lies ahead of me.

Tuesday, February 3, 7:21 p.m.

As I write about my weekend, I curse my exam tomorrow. Even though ice climbing is scary, cold and physically exhausting I’d rather be halfway up a waterfall right now that procrastinating studying for my midterm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2:59 p.m.

T-minus one minute to midterm number one. Ice climbing was a bad idea, I should have studied.

No, ice climbing is better than studying.

Should have studied.

Definitely a good idea. Great weekend, great experience. And it’s just a midterm, right?