Dawn Patrol: An Ice Climber’s Morning Commute

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Images by Keese Lane

I swing my ice axe and pull up. Careful technique sounding out the swings, and lifting myself foot by foot up the dark ice. My headlamp illuminates only as far as my reach, but it is all I need. White and gray surround my little light, and in those looming peripheral shadows I could be anywhere: Chamonix, the Alps, Alaska, or even the Karakoram. I keep climbing through the dark, just like the ice climbers I admire. Confident swings and secure steps bring me to the top. The rope comes off my back and I’m down, in the car, driving to work.

If you’re lucky, or work a seasonal job, you can take your bliss in deep doses. You can disappear to the wilderness for weeks on end. You can explore the world famous ranges and disappear on “expedition.”

But most of us can’t afford that. Our day jobs last all year long, in spite of the season.

We can’t take our recreation like gas station drip coffee; downing twenty-four ounces at a time. We have to savor it European fashion, in the condensed flavour of an espresso shot. A few hours stolen before the day begins, or snuck in after the sunset. Dawn and dusk gain a new meaning. They don’t represent beginnings and ends, but transformation points. Reminders that work or dinner are waiting, but there are still a few hours to be enjoyed behind the sun’s back.

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And with the sun gone, our imaginations fill the void created by our headlamps. With the parking lot out of sight, our tiny bit of wilderness expands to encompass the world. Within the pale glow of artificial light, Hidden Gully at Smuggler’s Notch becomes alpine granite. The shadows don’t hide our dreams, they hold them. And for a brief hour before or after work, those dreams exist just off to the side, adding a rich dark flavor to be savored for the rest of the day.

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Keese Lane is an Ibex Influencer. Originally from Vermont, he now lives, works, and dreams about climbing in Utah. You can find more of his writing and photography at Extrablue.org or by following the #LivingIbex and #WoolWorks hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. He loves his Ibex Work Gloves.