Ass Holes on Ice Hills Yosemite National Park

After two days climbing through brambles and over obstacles nearly vertical, we arrived at the bottom. Having made the decision that we were well over our heads, we decided to take it easy and not climb the 5.9 route.

Working on the assumption that any route down would be better than the one we had ascended, we then made our way around the side of the north face of the dome. It involved still more climbing and we had been warned about a massive glacier field we would need to traverse.

Upon approaching the field, still wearing tennis-shoes, we did our best to kick foot holds through the snow and maintain our balance. the field became increasingly steep, and upon cresting the ridge, we were looking out at a 1/2 mile traverse across a field where one slip would send us sliding downward over 3,000 feet, pausing only momentarily where the ice changed to granite at about 5,000 feet elevation.

We did not have the proper gear for this. We had grabbed several long sticks to use as stabilizers and for "protection." I went out first, trailing a line to my brother who was anchored as best he could be given the situation.

Slowly and deliberately I stepped out onto the ice. Using the sides of my feet I’d kick hard to break through the hard packed snow, and test each step for sturdiness before committing my weight to it. There was a large section of the ice wall that showed signs of collapse and fracture nearly 1,000 feet below. Pieces of snow larger than automobiles had simply let go of the main block and fallen — their own underlying supports having already melted and washed away.

I faced up-hill, and tried to keep my mind focused on the section of ice that directly effected my well being. Kick-Crunch-Step-Transfer-Breath… over and over, I repeated this process as the line of rope grew longer and longer. Even with the rope, a slip at any point would send me tumbling downward like the weight on the end of a pendulum. I took one of my sticks and drove it deep into the snow. I draped the rope over the top, and knew full well that in the event of trouble, that stick would be little more than psychological protection.

There was a large tree about 40 feet away, and I could only hope that I would reach it before coming to the end of my rope. Despite the fact that larger trees had already been toppled by the weight of sliding snow, this one still stood tall and served as a gauge for my progress.

Continuing on, the snow beneath my left foot suddenly gave way and sent me sliding. I instantly dropped to my side and punched my fist deeply downward through the snow with speed, strength, and determination. I came to a stop only 10 feet below where my feet let go, but it served to harshly reinforce the realities of the danger we were dealing with. I was lucky, and I knew it.

So it was with great relief that I finally reached that tree, and the sound of my carribiner securely clipped to a quickly tied anchor was music to my ears.

Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls
Ass Holes on Ice Hills

Copyright (C), 1998, by Ashley Guberman

Speak Your Mind