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Exhilaration and beauty drive ice climbers

Martin Volken leads an ice climb of Stellar Falls, which can be reached by the Alpental ski area's main chairlift. Photo copyright Genevieve Hathaway.

Ice climbing is the adventure sport of ascending frozen waterfalls, seeps and snow-formed ice. Its tools — crampons, ice tools, harnesses, ice screws — are derived from mountaineering, but its techniques are unique to the sport. With unpredictability and environmental hazards common, ice climbing is both dangerous (ascending frozen waterfalls will never be the safest thing to do with one’s January Sunday) and exhilarating.

Beyond working out the “puzzle” of an ascent, climbers are drawn to the beauty. Ice formations are Mother Nature’s ever-changing artwork. Glistening white and iridescent blue, ice lines form unique features such as pillars, curtains, gigantic icicles, ice caves, cauliflower formations and more. As the ice melts and re-forms throughout a season, climbs become easier or harder, gain or lose features and grow longer or shorter. The fact that ice changes frequently keeps climbs fresh, new, interesting and unexpected.

Follow the link to read the rest of my article published in The Seattle Times.

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