Ice and is that possible?

So we are somehow one month into the year (seriously wasn’t it just Christmas?) and I have ticked four of my 50 first list ideas, putting me on track to completion so far. This last week I ticked two on the same day. It was one of the coolest days of my life!

Tick one was a visit to Poet’s Table in Custer State Park. Sadie had been there last summer. My friend took her while she was Sadie sitting. She somehow snapped what has become my favorite Sadie picture while there. I had no clue where this place was or how to get there but I knew if Sadie had been there I needed to go there one day, too.

That day happened this past weekend when my ice-climbing friends and I ventured to an ice climb called Honey Bear, which is essentially below the Poet’s Table. The table is in an amazing site. It’s one of those really sacred places and I must admit an awesome idea by the person who created it. I signed in on one of the notebooks there.

Had it been summer, I likely would have dawdled all day there. But we only stayed a few minutes, which turned out to be a blessing because it allowed me to tick a second item off my list — climbing rock and ice on the same day! This is a feat that’s only possible in a few places in the U.S., and maybe even the world. I’d venture to say it could be done in New Hampshire, Colorado, Utah, California and here. You might have the right conditions in Minnesota but I think it would be a very long shot and would require a pretty impressive driving commitment. I think California and New Hampshire would have that same logistical problem, too. Utah, like here, would present the easiest access...but you have to have that really amazing warm day in winter. Which, we did! 

Although when I went to do my rock climb my car told me it was 35 degrees and my eyes told me the sun was gone for the day. I was so psyched to do it, though, that I braved it anyhow, stepping in snow to solo to the top of a simple rock climb, where I could drop a rope, rappel down, and climb back up, belaying myself. The solo was one I had done three or four times before, but never in temperatures this cold. One slip and I’d fall and be injured. In the summer I never would think twice about this solo, but in the winter, with a glaze of ice below, I was a bit sketched out. To be honest I hardly solo at all...I prefer the safety of rope.

Once I got to the top I knew I was going to achieve my goal. I have never been so cold climbing, but the granite here relies more on footwork than precise fingers. Still it was surreal seeing my breath as I climbed up the 35-foot route I chose. I screamed out of adrenaline when I got to the top, beaming with exhilaration.

The ice climbing, earlier that day was on this natural flow that had likely only been “in” for a few weeks. It’s a fairly easy climb, but the true beauty of it is its seclusion and easy access. Unlike the Harney flow, which we climb regularly and requires a mile hike in stepping over at least 80 downed trees on the slog up to the wall, Honey Bear is close to the Needles Highway and if you approach it from there has very easy access. Unlike climbs in Spearfish, you don’t hear car noise and we saw absolutely no one for the few hours we climbed.

I know many of you don’t love winter, the cold, the snow. But you’re here. This is home. I honestly used to hate winter; now it might be my favorite season. It’s a time of year that’s quiet and peaceful. It’s amazing to be standing at the base of this ice flow, hearing the birds, the slight rush of water, feeling your toes begin to numb and your face being so cold you can barely speak. You push yourself to the edge of what the body can endure; once inside you can fully relax every muscle and feel like instead of watching life you lived it, even if just for one brief afternoon.

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