Ice Climbing at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude


Have you ever been somewhere so unique that you feel like you are on a different planet?  When I was lowered over 100 feet into a bottomless crevasse at Fox Glacier, I felt like I was discovering Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (for those who aren’t Superman fans, it’s Superman’s North Pole retreat).  It was a weird feeling to be all alone surrounded by two never-ending walls of Kool-Aid blue ice.

Before I began my long climb out of the crevasse, I spent a few minutes enjoying the amazing beauty of the glacier.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen.  Although dangling by a rope in the middle of a crevasse had a surprisingly eerie feeling to it, I couldn’t help but enjoy the silence and thoughts of Superman.

The climb out of the crevasse was made difficult by a long sloping ledge on the wall.  We had practiced climbing up vertical walls beforehand, but we hadn’t climbed any walls that had a slope.  As I went somewhat horizontal on the slope, I began having difficulty keeping weight on my crampons.  A couple of times one of my crampons would slip, but I was able to recover and make it to the top of the ledge without falling.

By the time I made it up and over the ledge, I was tired (ice climbing isn’t as easy as it looks).  Fortunately for me, the next thirty-five feet was an easy vertical climb.  Once I made it to the top, a feeling of accomplishment rushed through my body.  What added to this feeling was the loud cheering of the instructor and the other group members.  I felt like I had just finished a marathon…a marathon on ice that is.

Just as a side note, ice climbing is apparently not like Vertical Limit and other ice climbing movies.  Our instructor told us not to leap towards a wall and try to stick our ice axes and crampons into the ice.  She said it wouldn’t work, and if it did, you would end up dislocating your shoulders.  I don’t know why, but she looked right at me when she was giving us the lecture of what not to do.  Since I knew Hollywood tells no lie, I disregarded her “safety” message.  I ran and jumped towards a wall and stuck my crampons and ice axes into the ice.  Once I landed on the wall, the ice immediately broke, and I slid down the side of the wall.  Luckily the soft ice of the glacier broke my fall.  Everyone just shook their heads as I laid at the bottom of the wall.

Hiking Franz Josef Glacier and ice climbing Fox Glacier were two events I will never forget.  Everyone needs to be lowered down into a deep and lonely crevasse once in their life.  It is unlike anything you have ever experienced!

Where’s the most unique place you have been?

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