Ice climbing is a path of approach to a world apart. It is a simpler, more dynamic world than the one we are used to. Death is close. Social concerns drop away as so many inconsistencies in a logical argument. The truth of an individuals nature begins to emerge as instinct shows its old, forgotten face.

There is a certain purity in engaging in what some would call a "useless activity." When the ice climber confronts the overhang, it is with the knowledge that no material gain will result from the completion of the task. Yet the climber's whole physical, mental, and spiritual being is committed to climbing the bulge, confident that when the climb is complete, the satisfaction will outweigh the effort.

However, the person with gravity tugging at his or her heels also senses the absurdity of the situation. In the face of great difficulty, the climber's mind may revolt against the challenge's apparent stupidity. But on second thought, the climber sees that no greater inherent meaning infuses the life left behind, except the meaning the climber invests in it. And so, as Don Juan says in Carlos Casteneda's The Teachings of Don Juan, the climber simply must "choose the path with heart."

Two people sit with their dreams in a cold room Several candles illuminate the abandoned building that sheltered them the previous night. The flickering candlelight shows no affinity for the corners of the room, and the climbers find the darkness somehow oppressive. They waste no time in packing their gear for an escape from a space that has all the ambience of a tomb.

Later, they climb up to a hole in the ice with a ceiling of a hundred icicles and a floor of frozen motion. Superficially this cave resembles the room where they passed the night: it has an entrance, a floor, a ceiling. But the climbers feel the Tlwy me, purely and simply, essential difference between this natural space and its manmade counterpart. The dfcnttng. (Photo:JohnKwkauer) light showing through the translucent walls lends magnificence to the emotions of the pair. And whereas they had felt entombed in the confines of the building, discovering the cave is like finding a bright new home.

When they again find themselves out on the exposed face, there are no questions in their minds, and they are not looking for answers. They are, purely and Simply, climbing.

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