The Warmth of Cold Wind
by Stephen Regenold (VJ6 winter 2000)

 Something about desolation is beautiful. The solitude holds so tight. Out in the cold, in the old moans of the world, I can feel peace. Here, spirit winds paint gray stripes through the air and old trees paw at the clouds.

On a frozen river, on a bleak January Tuesday, I ski towards a pillar of solid, white ice. An immaculate column, the icefall seems to guard the upper river.

 Approaching, my ax sinks solid at the base and I work my feet up onto the crystal face. The swings and kicks begin and soon gain a rhythm, an almost hypnotic routine. Thirty feet up, I am pinned to the wall, ropeless, with two sunken ax placements. In this deserted river canyon, I stretch out, hunching my shoulders until my head droops into the wall. Here, my mind is clear, my life is focused, strangely, on one solitary task.

Topping the route, I climb up the slab until the snow again lays deep. Under a cedar bow, here in the Superior national forest, I drop my skis into the powder and continue upstream.

The roots of climbing lie not in numbers, not in altitude or grade, but in the experience. Although I immensely enjoy the physical side of climbing, this is not where my passion is. I climb to feel real life-the true state of existence. On a high icefall, on a run-out face, I feel more than the simple excitement of the route. In this situation, I feel closer to something real. I feel closer to the truth. It is in this surreal state of mind that climbing becomes less of a sport and more of a vehicle. And although this deep awareness, this taste of reality, is not limited to climbing, I feel it more strongly there.


The risk, the solitude, the focus demanded by this odd pursuit, these factors calm my often rushed mind. I claim no religious reverence to this sport, but I feel that climbing does bring me closer to a true understanding of life.

Take time to live life with a mind open to excitement and discovery. Climb and live with a passion often lost in our modern existence. Feel the warmth of cold wind, the brightness of dim stars, the life in fallen leaves.