Don’t fall into the trap of con­sid­er­ing the win­ter months to be lazy ones. Just because the tem­per­a­ture has dropped just a bit doesn’t mean the excite­ment has to be frozen over as well. In fact, all across the coun­try there are unique adven­ture oppor­tu­ni­ties all thanks to the win­ter fore­casts. Whether it’s explor­ing cli­mate-con­trolled caves or soak­ing in some hot springs, there’s a long list of engag­ing win­ter adven­ture out­ings; here are a few great places to start.

Mega Under­ground Bike Park—Louisville, Kentucky
Tout­ed as the largest indoor bike park on the plan­et, the Mega Under­ground Bike Park is some­thing you have to see for your­self. Locat­ed 100-ft. under­ground in a for­mer lime­stone cav­ern, this new­ly ren­o­vat­ed, amaz­ing under­ground space now hosts over 320,000 square feet of trails, jumps and a nat­u­ral­ly cli­mate con­trolled area for you to bike all win­ter long. Rentals are avail­able, and whether you bor­row one of theirs or bring your own, you’ll find plen­ty dirt to push around down here.

Bre­it­en­bush Hot Springs—Detroit, Oregon
Locat­ed smack dab in the mid­dle of the Willamette Nation­al For­est in the Ore­gon Cas­cades, Bre­it­en­bush Hot Springs Retreat and Con­fer­ence Cen­ter is the per­fect place to put your mind in order after too many cold nights shut­tered inside. Fea­tur­ing work­shops, per­son­al retreats and replen­ish­ment for mind, body and soul, the actu­al hot springs and steam saunas is what keeps Bre­it­en­bush a pop­u­lar win­ter destination.

©istockphoto/SitikkaMaine’s Hut-to-Hut Cross-Coun­try Ski Trails—Kingfield, Maine
For those that thrive in cold­er con­di­tions, the exten­sive 45 miles of trails that con­nect the dif­fer­ent huts found in the wilder­ness of South­east­ern Maine is the place for you. While the ski­ing is fun, the real adven­ture lies with­in the four dif­fer­ent huts oper­at­ed by Maine Huts & Trail, each equipped with hot water show­ers, heat­ed bunk rooms and all the ameni­ties you need to have a good win­ter time. All the huts oper­at­ed in the area are com­mu­nal, so you can expect to meet some oth­er avid win­ter adven­tur­ers, adding a lit­tle body heat to the win­ter warmth.

Lake Supe­ri­or Ice Caves—Bayfield, Wisconsin
As part of the Apos­tle Islands Nation­al Lakeshore, all along the shore­line of Mawik­we Bay in Wis­con­sin are some amaz­ing win­ter mar­vels wait­ing for you to explore. While it is pos­si­ble to pop into a sea kayak and approach the caves by pad­dling, addi­tion­al road and trail access make these daz­zling ice caves a pop­u­lar spot all win­ter long. Prop­er footwear and win­ter appar­el is strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed, and with these nat­ur­al attrac­tions com­prised entire­ly of rock and ice, it pays to always keep your head on a swiv­el and know that con­di­tions are always chang­ing with­in the Lake Supe­ri­or Ice Caves.

©istockphoto/blueyeOuray Ice Park—Ouray, Colorado
Stand­ing as one of the most promi­nent hand-made ice walls in the nation, the Ouray Ice Park in Col­orado not only holds one of the biggest ice climb­ing fes­ti­vals around every Jan­u­ary, but the world-class climb­ing is open to par­tic­i­pants all win­ter long. What that means for you is access to over 200 named climb­ing routes and an entire win­ter sea­son to push your lim­its and improve your ice climb­ing skills. Adja­cent to the tourist-friend­ly city of Ouray, and com­plete­ly free and open for pub­lic use, for your next vis­it to the Ouray Ice Park it’s worth con­sid­er­ing becom­ing an Ouray Ice Park Mem­ber and/or stay­ing in the friend­ly town that helps man­age this exhil­a­rat­ing win­ter attraction.

Intro­duc­to­ry Win­ter Moun­taineer­ing Courses
If you thought explor­ing high alpine areas and moun­tains was a task in the sum­mer, add in some freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and heavy accu­mu­la­tions of snow and you have your­self a real adven­ture. It’s not advised to explore moun­tains in the win­ter if you’re inex­pe­ri­enced and alone, but rather to go with a guide before you ven­ture out on your own. Most intro class­es are rel­a­tive­ly affordable.

The Lost Sea Cave Tour—Sweetwater, Tennessee
For a win­ter-ready retreat under­ground, the Lost Sea Cav­ern in Sweet­wa­ter, Ten­nessee has enough for the whole fam­i­ly to explore. Serv­ing as a Reg­is­tered Nation­al Land­mark, the Lost Sea is America’s largest under­ground lake, and with­in your vis­it you can explore this mag­nif­i­cent nat­ur­al won­der in one of two ways. Dai­ly tours will take you into the cav­ern and across the lake on a glass-bot­tomed boat, but for the true adven­ture, it’s worth your while to form a group and take part in the mul­ti-hour Wild Cave Tour, which will get you on your hands and knees to explore all the nooks and cran­nies the guides can get you through.

The Amer­i­can Birkebeiner—Cable, Wisconsin
Reg­is­tra­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the world-famous Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er in Feb­ru­ary clos­es Novem­ber of the pre­vi­ous year, but even if you missed your oppor­tu­ni­ty to sign up for this gru­el­ing 50 kilo­me­ter cross-coun­try ski race from Cable to Hay­ward, Wis­con­sin, it’s still quite the par­ty to spec­tate. Whether you take part in the race itself, or watch the oth­er events includ­ing a Junior Birkie and Barkie Birkie Ski­jor com­pe­ti­tion, there’s plen­ty of hot cocoa and good cheer at the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er to go around.

©istockphoto/GibsonPicturesFat Bike in the Tetons—Grand Targhee Resort, Wyoming
Set­ting a high bar for win­ter fun and explo­ration, Grand Targhee Resort in Alta, Wyoming was one of the first ski resorts to wel­come fat bikes onto their Nordic trail sys­tems. While many oth­er ski resorts fol­lowed suit in recent years, Grand Targhee still stands as one of the best places to blow up your tires and cruise through the snow. With access to over 15km of Nordic track avail­able, as well as an addi­tion­al sev­en miles of sin­gle­track trails, you won’t be left with a lot of ener­gy come the evening after ped­al­ing your fat bike (or rental) around Grand Targhee all day.

Sea Kayak­ing off the Baja Cal­i­for­nia Peninsula—Baja, Mexico
For­get the feel­ing of wip­ing snow off your car every morn­ing and head on down to Baja this win­ter. Filled with fresh air and warm weath­er, the best way to explore a vibrant aspect of this envi­ron­ment is to rent a kayak or bring your own and explore the crys­tal-clear waters of the Pacif­ic Ocean. Com­plete with moun­tain views, amaz­ing weath­er and wildlife includ­ing enor­mous hump­back whales, the hard­est part about vis­it­ing Baja and pad­dling around the Baja Cal­i­for­nia Penin­su­la will be pack­ing up your bags to go back home.

Year-round climbers don’t let a lit­tle win­ter get in their way. Instead, they head for the ice and begin their ver­ti­cal ascents. Along­side expe­ri­ence and knowl­edge, with a lit­tle assis­tance from cram­pons, ice axes and a strate­gi­cal­ly placed ice screw or two, ice climb­ing is a pop­u­lar win­ter activ­i­ty that keeps its patrons warm through­out the sea­son. Across the cold­er part of the nation, both man-made and nat­ur­al ice falls are wait­ing to be climbed, and whether you find your­self look­ing for ice climb­ing in New Eng­land, the Upper Mid­west or the Amer­i­can West, you’ll find plen­ty of routes worth your win­ter attention.

Ouray Ice Park, Ouray, Colorado 
When speak­ing about ice climb­ing in North Amer­i­ca, Ouray Ice Park is always a part of the con­ver­sa­tion. Fea­tur­ing frozen water­falls lin­ing the Uncom­pah­gre Gorge of the San Juan Moun­tains, Ouray earns the top spot with over 200 named routes, an abun­dance of guid­ing com­pa­nies to show you the ropes and a com­mu­ni­ty that has real­ly come togeth­er to enjoy the adven­ture. Built by ice farm­ers and sprin­klers each win­ter, Ouray is an ice-mec­ca thanks to col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts between the city, the Ouray Ice Park non-prof­it group and local landown­ers. One of the best ways to enjoy the Ouray Ice Park is the annu­al Ouray Ice Fes­ti­val, which shines a spot­light on the friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty that sur­rounds these ice walls.

Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park, Sand­stone, Minnesota
Just over an hour north of the Twin Cities along Inter­state 35 en route to Duluth, Sand­stone is a real hotspot for Mid­west­ern­ers and beyond for ice climb­ing. Serv­ing as Minnesota’s first farmed Ice Park, Sand­stone Ice Climb­ing Park is sit­u­at­ed with­in Robin­son Coun­ty Park and a for­mer sand­stone quar­ry. These dug-out canyon walls pro­vide the per­fect place to freeze with water, effec­tive­ly cre­at­ing an ice-climb­ing mec­ca in Min­neso­ta. The sea­son at Sand­stone real­ly kicks off each year with the Sand­stone Ice Fes­ti­val in Jan­u­ary and lends access to all abil­i­ties and inter­est lev­els through­out the winter.

Key­stone Canyon, Valdez, Alaska
Sit­u­at­ed on the south­ern shore of Alas­ka, sur­round­ed by the Chugach Nation­al For­est to the east and Wrangell St. Elias Nation­al Park to the west, Valdez is a half-kept secret for adven­ture in Alas­ka. Locat­ed on the apt­ly named “Adven­ture Cor­ri­dor” of Alas­ka, Valdez is home to a lot of alpine action, includ­ing some of the best ice climb­ing around. Of par­tic­u­lar note, Key­stone Canyon draws expe­ri­enced climbers from around the world, offer­ing deep-blue water­fall routes that require mul­ti­ple pitch­es to climb. Much like every­thing in Alas­ka, Key­stone Canyon takes the adven­ture to a whole new lev­el, requir­ing dense logis­tics to get to the trail­head, a self-sup­port­ed endeav­or, and a wilder­ness expe­ri­ence to always remember.

Franken­stein Cliff, Craw­ford Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Among the many New Hamp­shire State Parks to vis­it this win­ter, Craw­ford Notch State Park should be on the top of the list. A pic­turesque des­ti­na­tion set against the White Moun­tains, Craw­ford Notch pro­vides cross-coun­try ski­ing, snow­shoe­ing and qual­i­ty ice climb­ing. Fea­tur­ing a wide vari­ety of ice routes for most skill lev­els, one of the more pop­u­lar road­side spots to climb in Craw­ford Notch is Franken­stein Cliff. With easy access and mul­ti­ple route options to sharp­en your skills, every ice climber in the North­east has heard the tale of Franken­stein Cliff.

Pro­vo Canyon, Wasatch Moun­tains, Utah
Besides pro­vid­ing a great set­ting for auto­mo­bile tour­ing, High­way 189 out of Pro­vo, bet­ter known as the Pro­vo Canyon Scenic Dri­ve, also lends to a bur­geon­ing selec­tion of ice climb­ing routes. Regard­ed as some of the best ice climb­ing in Utah, Pro­vo Canyon lends to road­side access and steep pitch­es, as well as a smat­ter­ing of dif­fer­ent grad­ings to devel­op new skills. An ambi­tious and impres­sive ascent to aim for at Pro­vo Canyon is the Stair­way to Heav­en, a 10-pitch pic­turesque route you’ll have to work for.

Lake Willough­by, Willough­by State For­est, Vermont
The North­east High­lands of Ver­mont is always a great win­ter get­away, and one of the best ways to enjoy the cold sea­son is to climb high onto the ice of Mount Pis­gah near the shores of Lake Willough­by. Locat­ed less than two hours north of Franken­stein Cliff and Craw­ford Notch State Park in New Hamp­shire, Lake Willough­by ice climb­ing is rat­ed as more dif­fi­cult, and can pro­vide the right kind of chal­lenge for expe­ri­enced climbers. Longer approach­es, hard­er ascents, and more pitch­es, that’s the name of the game at Lake Willough­by, includ­ing one of the largest con­cen­tra­tions of dif­fi­cult ice climbs in the nation.

Peabody Ice Climb­ing, Fen­ton, Michigan
Fea­tur­ing two iced-over tow­ers on a retired apple orchard, Peabody Ice Climb­ing pro­vides a cool way to stay active this win­ter. Ide­al for ice-climbers look­ing for train­ing and prac­tice, or begin­ners tak­ing a first inter­est in the sport, the two eye-catch­ing frozen tow­ers at Peabody are also accom­pa­nied by a warm­ing hut, gear rentals and a heat­ed bunkhouse for overnight adven­tures. Through­out all sea­sons at Peabody Ice Climb­ing, ice climbers can con­tin­ue to get some vert with the indoor dry-climb­ing wall and a sim­u­lat­ed high-alti­tude work­out chamber

crampon maintenance

crampon maintenanceWhether you’re a moun­taineer who treks across rock, snow, and ice or a mixed climber who tra­vers­es all man­ner of abra­sive terrain—know that every time you use your cram­pons, you’re dulling their grip. Here’s how to sharp­en and main­tain them to opti­mize safe­ty and longevity.

First, Dial In Your Work Area
When work­ing with any man­ner of tools and tech­ni­cal gear, it’s worth tak­ing the time to set up a work area that’s safe, com­fort­able, and well lit. Because sharp­en­ing cre­ates met­al shav­ings, sharp­en cram­pons in an easy-to-sweep area.

Sharp­en by Hand
Start by thor­ough­ly rins­ing dirt and dust off your cram­pons, then wipe them com­plete­ly dry. Depend­ing on the design, you may be able to sep­a­rate the heel from the toe section–if you can, do so. Some choose to put their cram­pons in a vice to sharp­en them, which is fine—just take care not to bend the met­al. You can also sim­ply hold the cram­pons, but pro­tect your hands by wear­ing gloves. Using a coarse hand file, file the side and points of your cram­pon spikes, fol­low­ing the exist­ing forge. When fil­ing, be care­ful to strike a straight line from frame to tip. Nev­er use a grind­ing wheel, which gen­er­ates heat that may weak­en met­al by chang­ing the tem­per of the steel. Straight­en bent points as much as pos­si­ble, either by the direc­tion of fil­ing or with a ham­mer. For moun­taineer­ing cram­pons, aim for the equiv­a­lent sharp­ness of a steak knife tip (ultra-sharp blades can cut pants, legs, and back­packs); for technical/vertical cram­pons, the sharp­er the better.

Cod­dle Your Crampons
After you’ve sharp­ened your cram­pons, wash and wipe them down with a clean rag. Care­ful­ly inspect them, look­ing for chips, burrs, or warped edges. Care­ful­ly exam­ine the points—if they’re get­ting thin, odd­ly shaped, or notice­ably short­er, it might be time for a new pair.

When pack­ing for an adven­ture, check your cram­pons for loose riv­ets, wig­gly screws, and worn straps and buckles—replace or adjust as need­ed. Ensure the heel and toe bails are in good work­ing order and that they fit your boots snug­ly. For longer trips, car­ry a small repair kit includ­ing a mul­ti-tool, bal­ing wire, and spare parts like straps, bails, and extra cen­ter bars.

Off-Sea­son Storage
Final­ly, after each trip, make sure your cram­pons are com­plete­ly dry before putting them away; if they sit with mois­ture on the met­al, they may begin to rust. If you’re stor­ing them for the sea­son, clean them thor­ough­ly then con­sid­er coat­ing them with light oil or a water-dis­place­ment spray like WD-40.

Win­ter isn’t just for the skiers and snow­board­ers if you’re inter­est­ed in get­ting out there, hav­ing some fun in the snow, and try­ing some­thing a lit­tle more off the beat­en path, con­sid­er giv­ing one of these a try. Who knows you might just be a natural.

ski-joring-lakeside-montanna
Ski­jor­ing at its finest in Lake­side, Mon­tana. @406_rob

Ski­jor­ing
Ever thought about what it would feel like to get towed on your skis by a dog or a horse, maybe even a car? Ever want­ed to com­pete against oth­er skiers also get­ting towed? If yes, then ski­jor­ing is for you. This age-old sport is a boat­load of fun, who knows it might even be your next mode of trans­porta­tion to the gro­cery store.

Ski Bik­ing
Pic­ture a bike but instead of wheels, you’ve got two or three skis. These things are fast, fun, and even a lit­tle scary. This sport is a great way to hit the ski slopes if you don’t feel like ski­ing or snow­board­ing, and many ski resorts now offer rentals and even lessons for those look­ing to learn.

Ice Climbing/Mountaineering
While maybe not exact­ly fringe sports, ice climb­ing, and moun­taineer­ing are great ways for those who don’t ski or snow­board to get out­side and enjoy the won­der­ful beau­ty of nature in win­ter.  How­ev­er, they are both some of the more cost pro­hib­i­tives of win­ter sports, not to men­tion they are also dan­ger­ous activ­i­ties that take a con­sid­er­able amount of knowl­edge and prepa­ra­tion. That being said, they’re both a lot of fun if done safely.

Fat-Bike

Snowskat­ing
Undoubt­ed­ly the brain­child of snow­board­ers and skate­board­ers, snowskat­ing is a great way to embrace skate­board­ing and the more tech­ni­cal bag of tricks that come with it. By not hav­ing the board attached to your feet, rid­ers have the free­dom of mov­ing around like their on a skate­board, while on snow.

Fat Bik­ing
Ever tried to bike in the snow with nor­mal pair of bike tires? Does­n’t work. Fat bik­ing is all about the girth, with huge tires, wheels cov­er more sur­face area giv­ing you the free­dom to ped­dle around on snow like you would on a city street. With recent pop­u­lar­i­ty grow­ing, adven­ture trav­el trip providers have recent­ly start­ed adding fat bike tours to their list of activ­i­ties, so get out there, hop on a bike, and hit the snow.

Yuki­gassen
Last but def­i­nite­ly not least. Yuki­gassen is a Japan­ese snow­ball fight­ing com­pe­ti­tion that is exact­ly what it sounds like. Play­ers com­pete with teams of sev­en in a head to head com­pe­ti­tion that is scored sim­i­lar­ly to cap­ture the flag, where­in play­ers get out if they are hit with a snow­ball, and the ulti­mate goal is to either elim­i­nate all oppos­ing play­ers or cap­ture the oth­er teams flag. Com­pe­ti­tions are held all over the world, with a cham­pi­onship in Hokkai­do, Japan.

Margot Talbot and Michael O'Donnell
Mar­got Tal­bot and War­ren Mac­don­ald  at the Port­land Alpine Fest

Mar­go Tal­bot is a writer and climber who lives in the south­ern inte­ri­or of British Colum­bia. She has com­pet­ed in a num­ber of climb­ing com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing the ESPN X‑Games and the Ouray Inter­na­tion­al Ice Fes­ti­val. A spon­sored ath­lete with Out­door Research, she also guides for Chicks with Picks and runs an adven­ture guid­ing com­pa­ny for women, The Glit­ter Girls. She recent­ly gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on how ice climb­ing empow­ered her to heal her­self from a life­time of drug addic­tion and sui­ci­dal depression.


The Clymb: As an accom­plished ice climb­ing instruc­tor and men­tor who strug­gled with depres­sion and addic­tion for years, you’re work­ing hard to use climb­ing to help peo­ple heal them­selves. How do you see ice climb­ing as a metaphor for liv­ing a healthy life?

Mar­go Tal­bot: For one, not all ice is cre­at­ed equal. When you try to swing your axe into a chunk of chan­de­lier ice, it’s real­ly hard to get a sol­id pur­chase you can trust. Nav­i­gat­ing life with the effects of child­hood trau­ma or sui­ci­dal depres­sion is sim­i­lar to nav­i­gat­ing chan­de­lier ice — you nev­er feel like you have a sol­id foun­da­tion beneath you. The best thing you can do is help your­self devel­op in ways you nev­er did as a child.

Also, ice climbers are noth­ing with­out the right tools. We bring the axes, cram­pons, rope and screws we need to pro­tect our­selves from a ground fall–the equiv­a­lent of rock bot­tom. The best thing peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal health or depres­sion can do for them­selves is get them­selves the sup­port sys­tem they need to keep them­selves from tak­ing repeat­ed ‘ground­falls’. Rock bot­tom can be a per­fect turn­around point for some peo­ple but for oth­ers it’s a slip­pery slope into oblivion.

Last­ly, ice climb­ing brings you into the present moment. It’s an exer­cise in mind­ful­ness and a mov­ing medi­a­tion. Depres­sion is defined as being caught up in the pain of the past and anx­i­ety is fear of future events. The obvi­ous anti­dote to both of these is being in the pre­set moment. That’s hard to do with unre­solved trau­ma inside of your body, but the best thing to do is to try not to numb the pain, instead be present with the pain and move through to the oth­er side. To heal yourself.


The Clymb: What is the most impor­tant life les­son you’ve gained from ice climbing?

Mar­go Tal­bot: Climb­ing taught me to trust myself and trust life. With the right tools and tech­niques, you’ll find that you can progress your life upward one move at a time. You can’t know every part of a route, you just trust that you’ll have the skill and the tools to reach your desired goal.


The Clymb: Dur­ing your bat­tle with drugs and depres­sion you describe life as “… mono­chro­mat­ic, devoid of colour or bright­ness. There was no beau­ty in the world, only pain and suf­fer­ing. I felt this inside myself, and I saw it reflect­ed every­where in the word.” How did you even­tu­al­ly learn to heal yourself?

Mar­go Tal­bot: I saw the con­nec­tion between the pain that was stored inside of me and the thoughts and feel­ings I was har­bor­ing as a result of this. I decid­ed that at a cer­tain point I was the one who was per­pet­u­at­ing the pain, because the caus­es for it had been removed from the time I left home. This rever­sal in my think­ing, that rather than the pain com­ing from the out­side in was now being trans­mit­ted from the inside out, was a key step in mov­ing for­ward. I decid­ed that I need­ed to own my life up to that point, and every­thing in it, in order to begin the heal­ing process. As long as I saw myself a vic­tim of the cir­cum­stances of my life, I was going to feel pow­er­less to do any­thing about it. This shift in my think­ing would be cru­cial to mov­ing beyond my painful past, to go from stand­ing at the base of the climb to step­ping onto the ice and ven­tur­ing upward.

At the age of 37, I topped out of my climb out of depres­sion. It’s a mir­a­cle to me to wake up depres­sion and anx­i­ety free every­day. I would­n’t will depres­sion on my worst ene­my but I will say that I learned more from that state than I could with­out it and that’s because look­ing back over expe­ri­ences that are labeled a dis­ease by our cul­ture, all I see is the archi­tec­tur­al beau­ty of the blue­print of my own psy­che. Every­thing that hap­pened to me was tai­lor made for my own heal­ing jour­ney and I learned that we are all equipped with the tools to heal our emo­tion­al trau­ma if we can stop the distraction.


The Clymb: As a respect­ed author, speak­er and climb­ing advo­cate, you’re quick­ly gain­ing noto­ri­ety as a female role mod­el in a male dom­i­nat­ed sport. Did you have any women role mod­els when you were learn­ing to climb?

Mar­go Tal­bot: One month before I got bust­ed I was leaf­ing through a climb­ing mag­a­zine and I found this incred­i­ble image of a woman climber named Kit­ty Cal­houn. I looked up to her a lot as a climber and a woman. Dur­ing my first two years of ice climb­ing, I did­n’t run into many women ice climbers and I always won­dered if there was a way to lure more women into the sport. I heard about a gal in Col­orado named Kim Reynolds who ran Chicks with Picks. She heard about some of the work I was doing with all female clin­ics and called me to see if I would come teach some clin­ics for her. When I showed up I real­ized that I was teach­ing right along­side my idol, Kit­ty Cal­houn. That was twen­ty years ago and I am hap­py to say that some of the strongest rela­tion­ships I’ve formed to this day are with the women I met through Chicks with Picks.


The Clymb: Did you ever tell Kit­ty she was such an impor­tant role mod­el for you?

Mar­go Tal­bot: I always want­ed to go up to Kit­ty and tell her my sto­ry about her being my role mod­el before I was thrown in jail and the drugs and every­thing but I nev­er did because my past used to be a maze of care­ful­ly hid­den secrets. But then in the Fall of 2009 I began writ­ing my book, All that Glit­ters. Many peo­ple have asked me why I decid­ed to write the book when I could have kept my past a secret. I want­ed to give a voice to my depres­sion because it was some­thing I lived with so inti­mate­ly for so many decades that it actu­al­ly feels like a best friend. I want­ed to help remove the stig­mas we have in our cul­ture towards men­tal ill­ness, sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies and drug addic­tion. But most of all, I want­ed peo­ple to know that there is hope. That even in the depths of dark­ness, humans have come through seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble situations.

Spoil­er alert: Thir­ty sec­onds into this video is a sick­en­ing moment. You see the per­spec­tive of life­long climber and safe­ty con­sul­tant, Mark Roberts, look up at the ice cliff above him to see a foot­ball-sized ice chunk hurtling down the slope at his head.

He deflects the ice chunk with his arm, but it knocks his ice tools and cram­pons free from their hold. What hap­pens next is every free soloists night­mare. Roberts falls over 300 feet down the snow­bound Pars­ley Fern Left­hand Gul­ly on Wales’ high­est peak, Snow­don.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, Roberts lives. And amaz­ing­ly, he only breaks his ankle. But the footage is enough to remind us that no mat­ter our skill, expe­ri­ence, or prepa­ra­tion, we can do our best to min­i­mize risk, but there is no way we can avoid it.