Where is winter: The upset ramblings of an ice climber

Sparks flew from my ice axe as I attempted to swing into a thicker patch of ice on the climb. To my dismay, swinging the tool harder did not, in fact, make it stick in the ice. It just made more sparks. Halfway up the climb, with no good edge to place my tool on, trying to scrape it into a small bit of purchase on rock or ice, I sighed. This is not what I was hoping for. It was expected, but not what I wanted. I was supposed to be climbing ice, not thrutching my way up a mixed rock and ice climb attempting to get some “early season” ice dribbles. Winter had apparently missed the memo to appear for ice climbing.

This article may seem like a rant, or a complaint, but I feel like the majority of winter enthusiasts are in agreement on winter’s lack of being a team player. To date, I have climbed two pitches of ice. This season, I have practically blown through a pair of picks from having to re-sharpen them after every outing, as opposed to sharpening them every few weeks. This year, I have skied more in July than I have in November. I have yet to shovel the driveway, instead letting the sun melt the snow off a few hours later. There have been no nights curled up by a fire with a book and hot chocolate. I believe I am not alone in anxiously waiting — re-sharpening tools, re-waxing skis, updating the boots, buying new coats — in hopes that winter will drop down on us in a fury leading us towards a new ice age.

Until this week, many of my friends continued to rip singletrack weekend after weekend. “Brown Pow” has become the typical powder of November. Sure, there is ice and snow in some places with high elevation. People have skied in Cooke City; there is ice on the Sphinx. However, all of that is more of a reminder that winter came very late this year. The fact that people were climbing ice on the Sphinx showed how little snow there was, as it cannot be climbed once avalanche conditions are high. And sure, Bozeman got substantial snow this week, but everyone has been expecting it for at least a full month now.  “Yeah man, I hear this huge storm is gonna drop a couple feet on us tonight.” “Oh, dude, did you hear the temps are plummeting this weekend? Ice season is just around the corner.” Uh huh. Sure, it snowed at times and sure, there were some temperature drops, but it always came back up to balmy 60°. It feels like the end of the semester is still a month away, since the weather has been tepid, and the end of the semester is supposed to be chilly.

I’m sure everyone is sick of my ranting. I am too, don’t worry. Therefore, I suggest we take action. Do a snow dance from the depths of your heart to ensure that the snowfall continues. Take a portion of your alcoholic beverage (if you’re over 21) and offer it to the winter gods of ice and snow. Sacrifice a goat. Binge watch all the best ski movies (“Apocalypse Snow”) while chanting “let it snow” over and over. Donate your life savings to Protect Our Winters. Switch to monoskiing, as it is the winter sport of choice for the arctic demigods. Dye all your hair white like a polar bear and run around growling. Do what is necessary to make this lack of winter turn into a powder-full, ice-tastic winter wonderland.

In all reality, this lack of winter is definitely due, to some degree, to climate change. Take the time to donate to POW, or other nonprofits, to ensure that this lack of winter doesn’t become a full blown reality for years to come.