I love frozen water; soft or hard, not too soft though. I have been in love with frozen water almost all my life. The love affair started when I was ten and stepped on my first Himalayan glacier; love at first sight. As my tiny foot crunched ice beneath my boots, a thunderbolt passed through my body and brain, defining the path that I would follow for the rest of my life; which has now taken me around the world in search of ice and snow in its myriad forms. From the highest summits to the deepest oceans, to the poles and to the tropics, from volcano craters to ice caps I have pursued frozen water in all its shapes, sizes, forms, dimensions, colours wherever they may be.
Charting my life through hundreds of far flung freezing glaciers, skipping across lofty summits piercing the azure, ice fields and Polar Regions I have realized that ice and snow is something that I just cannot have enough of, just like love.
I have a restless explorer’s heart and a curious mind and the dynamics of frozen water is most suitable to keep my heart and mind tempted forever. It changes shape and form, density and structure, depending upon the temperature and time of the day or by my action upon it like an instant chemical reaction. When we love someone we are willing to try out almost anything with our loved one and my love affair with ice has been no different. Walking upon ice I have pondered the meaning of life, scaling vertical faces and frozen waterfalls I have tottered at the brink of oblivion, descending into deep ice caves of Greenland and Polar ice caps I have been amazed at the beauty and complexity of ice, bleeding inside crevasses I have contemplated death and buried under avalanches I have often succumbed to my mortality, yet always and forever with wonder and gratitude that I have embraced my lover. Even when it is freezing my entrails or biting off my limbs, for it is a demanding lover and demands the best out of me. To love back I had not only to overcome my weaknesses but stand back up each time I fell, fight my fears and commandeer all my will to never give up.
I first learnt how to walk upon horizontal ice and then slowly but surely on inclined surfaces, gradually increasing in angle, eventually a vertical glistening mirror like bullet proof cold sheet ice; and then a little more, an overhang. Chandelier ice has been most nerve wracking as it sways and swings like pendulum as I am climbing (hooking) my ice tools almost unwillingly as if not to let them know of my presence. At extreme altitudes we often can’t breathe properly due to the lack of oxygen and the rarefied atmosphere but on a swinging body of water-ice I have often stopped breathing both out of sheer concentration of my mind and body and also in awe of my own audacity. What was I doing? Am I completely out of my bloody mind? I often asked myself once I topped into safety.
Love is blind and without logic. So is my icy love affair. If I ever tested it logically I guess I wouldn’t have done most of the things I eventually did.
I have nearly lost my fingers and other body parts to frost bites many times, I have had to cut off my own rotting flesh and apply suturing without any local anaesthesia many times, I have seen many of my friends dying in the ice, falling, crashing, hypothermia, swallowed up into crevasses, hit by avalanches and crushing ice seracs yet I cannot let go of my ice. Few times I have questioned my sanity or the logic and if I should return to ice yet once I am back into the so called ‘normality’ my heart longs to return. Sometimes I ask if this love is an addiction, something upon which I am dependent some kind of primordial need that cannot be replaced nor compensated by anything else and that if I deprive me of, I will surely wilt and perish.
When tempests blow upon the great mountains into death zone or across the vast frozen tundra, it blinds me and bleeds my exposed skin, freezes me right into my soul. Real cold is when thoughts freeze and I have had many thought-freezing moments. In those moments I have no clue what I am doing or what I wish to do since I am not thinking any more. My body just goes through the motion in a desperate bid to stay alive. Nothing else matters then, only the will to survive and the instinct of survival that dictates the body into action without thought.
And that perhaps is the greatest gift of love I have received in my life. The will to live, the instinct to survive and to rejoice in the moment of being alive. Because in the end nothing else really matters.
Love, Life, Longevity (eternity within a moment).