Snakes and Pills

092 - shut olive

From above, Jenny heard another loud cracking sound. There was no doubt that the ice was splitting now, being fractured all over by the steady application of heat. She dug her cleats in, trying to make sure that the spot she was standing in was secure.

It was, for now. Or at least it felt secure. There was often no real way of knowing until it was too late. While it was true that she was advised against climbing the glacier in the summer heat, she felt herself enough of an experienced ice climber to tackle the challenge. Now, for the first time ever in her career ascending glaciers, she felt afraid.

Jenny tried to figure out what exactly was giving her a bad feeling. She had climbed other glaciers before in warm weather, and had certainly gone out before when she had been well-advised to wait. It wasn't even the cracking of the ice, as it was something she had also witnessed many times before.

She felt hot. That was the issue that was bothering her. Usually, even in the height of summer, all decked out in her ice climbing gear, physically exerting herself, she would still feel quite cool. The coldness of the ice itself seemed to pass directly to her, even on the warmest days. It kept her mind cool and focused as well, and calmed any worries in her heart as she scaled the frozen cliffs.

But today was different. She was perspiring. When she actually drew near the glacier itself, of course it was cold. It was ice, after all. But she was getting a different feeling, and it was not keeping her cool. It was as if the glacier was telling her, "Today is a really hot day. Very, very hot. I'm not sure if I can hold myself together, and that means I am not sure if I can safely hold you, either."

Jenny had no thermometer with her, but it certainly did seem extremely hot. She pulled one of her ice axes out and dug it in further up. She really checked to make sure it felt like it had a good hold in the ice. After much deliberation, she felt okay, and continued her ascent in this careful, delicate action.

Another great series of sounds halted her progress, though. She turned to see the source of the commotion and witnessed, not more than fifty meters to her left, a huge sheet of ice breaking off and falling to the depths below.

What could she do? Part of her knew the wise course of action would be to turn back, to try and escape while there was still time. But the other part of her, the part of her that drove her to ice climbing in the first place, would not allow her to turn back without reaching the top.

To turn back would be to admit defeat, and Jenny could have none of that, so she carried on.

With each inch she ascended, she felt an increasing worry. Perhaps it was because she knew that the parts of the glacier near the top would have been roasting in the sun for the longest, and thus would be the thinnest and weakest parts. Or maybe it was the fact that each time she applied any pressure to the glacier at all, she was nearly certain that she could hear the ice cracking and collapsing, preparing to give way.

Each swing of an ice axe could be her last, Jenny knew. So, she swung with trepidation each time. Her muscles felt tired, too, which was odd, since usually she was good for several more hours of climbing before she truly felt the pains of physical exertion.

It was the fear. Fear was exhausting her. But she had nothing else she could do.


first back home randomnext latest

get social: