Laugh of the day: You do what for fun?

A non-climber’s perspective on the adventure sport of ice climbing, courtesy of Jon Krakauer’s 1988 essay “Valdez Ice”:*

(The essay describes the ice-climbing scene in Valdez, Alaska, and the passage below takes place in the Keystone Canyon, a narrow gorge characterized by over 50 waterfalls, frozen in winter, cascading down its 800-foot walls.)

Ten years ago [in 1978], a Valdez ship’s agent named Bob Pudwill was driving through Keystone Canyon beneath those forbidding cliffs when, he recalls, “I happened to look up and see a tiny figure standing on a ledge halfway up Bridal Veil Falls,” one of the canyon’s largest cascades, which, from November until May, turns into a fifty-story-high latticework of delicate blue icicles.  The figure on the falls, Pudwill explains, was “stamping his feet and slapping his hands together while paying out a line which ran up to a second tiny figure who appeared to be stuck to the ice, spread-eagled who knows how, let alone why.  My only guess was that they must be getting paid.”

For some folks, pursuits that push the body to its absolute limits are like icing on the cake of life.  Eat up!

* “Valdez Ice” by Jon Krakauer appears in Smithsonian (January 1988) and in Krakauer’s book Eiger Dreams:  Ventures Among Men and Mountains (Anchor Books, 1997).


3 Responses to “Laugh of the day: You do what for fun?”

  1. As a rock climber I have a few mates who venture into Ice Climbing. I’ve never been able to gather enough psyche to protect myself with ice screws on something that I know will become fluid again at some point in time. Unlike the author I do however understand exactly why they do this, and the only way to understand is to expose yourself to a similar activity. We do have something in common though, and that is a great respect for those buys. A very beautiful description!

    • Thanks for your comment, Franz. I’ve only tried ice climbing once, over one weekend, and it was amazing. I often wish I could pursue the sport more seriously. Interestingly, I am more drawn to the idea of climbing on ice than on rock! Happy climbing to you!


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