Five a.m. is early for a weekend alarm, but winter’s back. There’s too little daylight to waste it. The ice is in, the days are short, and the mountains are calling. Roll out of bed, pull on long underwear and fleece. Fill a water bottle, grab the already packed backpack by the door and go.
The warm car is the final bastion of heat. Don’t waste it. Don’t open the door a moment too soon, even if it means tying your boots hunched over the steering wheel. Soak in the final few warm minutes. They are precious. Once in the landscape it’s the sounds you notice: the crunch of the snow underfoot, the wind as it whistles through the trees, the rustle of nylon rubbing nylon. The hike is the warm up stretch before the fight begins. It’s a moment to look at the mountains, the snow, the trees and wilderness before the landscape rears to blanket your view.
The final walk below the ice is always a nervous one. The columns have a way of dwarfing and dampening, reminding you of how small you are. But in that frozen space the sounds continue—the zip of extra layers, the clink of carabiners and ice screws, the hiss of rope running through gloves—and are amplified by the cold.
Then it’s time. Tink! Tink! Sink a tool. Tink! Tink! Sink the other. Thunk! A boot. Thunk! The other boot. Ice climbing, the frozen symphony, has begun. The whir of ice screws cutting into the depth, the tap of the belayer dancing to stay warm, the drumbeat of falling ice. The movement becomes its own language, emerges in the winter quiet, echos through the canyons and reverberates through the ice. It is a landscape without heat but full of songs. Climb higher, into the breeze and creek of swaying trees. The scrape of steel mingles with the sounds of the forest. The hush of the falling snow only leaves the chorus ringing louder. The noise of belayers, other climbers, the human race and the world as a whole fades. Only you are left. You and the mountain. And you hear each other.
February temperatures, typically the coldest in the year for us in Portland, Maine, start to give way to warming omens of spring. As the image by Mike Schirf above demonstrates, you’ve just got to hang in there! And what better way to warm you up than looking at beautiful new images?! We’ve got both kids and adults enjoying snow days, how to make friends during exotic travel, and some pretty intense workouts. There’s seaweed farmers, a farming family and the family that camps together, staying together. Perhaps you prefer climbing, high line, acrobatics or running? Or maybe it’s finding new places? There’s exploration by: foot, old-timey bicycle, beat-up truck, sailboat, raft, SUP, and skateboard.
Trying to choose which images to submit to a contest can be difficult. Even more so when the images aren’t technically yours, but rather from many different excellent photographers, at the top of their game. It gets even more difficult when that contest is completely in your wheelhouse, like the PDN Great Outdoors contest is. Choosing out of the thousands of high quality images in a highly curated collection is like choosing which species of bear is your favorite bear. How can you possibly pick just one?