Just as I take one last whole-hearted swing with my ice axe, I hear the guys below cheering and clapping for my accomplishment as a shower of ice rains down onto my face. I did it. I climbed the ice wall…and I was the first in the group to do so.
Like a pro (maybe due to years of rock climbing practice?) I belayed down and took my bow. Now it was someone else´s turn…and for a few moments, they all clammed up. They were Pat and Eric, the two guys from Holland, a third guy from Singapore, and Joe, THE American.
I was happy that I could set the bar so high, especially with Joe in the group. It was so devastatingly annoying to wait for him to stop and take photos every five steps on the way up. Actually, it wasn´t the photos that were so bad, it was the setting up of each shot. But, you know how professional photographers are. Just as I was thinking I should inform him that simply owning a professional-quality camera does not necessarily a professional photo make, it was his turn.
He bent and bounced, swung his arms like a swimmer readying to enter the pool, shook out his limbs, and grabbed hold of the axes. Swing one…miss. Swing two…miss. Swing three…miss. I suppose there is a trick to this: muscle. Joe blamed his loose shoe for his bad swing and untied himself. Then, while Chris climbed all the way up and belayed all the way down, Joe made big show of tightening his shoes and testing them out.
Then…it was his turn again. It was now or never, as he´d already made excuses through everyone´s turns. This was it. He did some more of that swimmer-bouncing-around stuff, I think maybe the theme song from “Rocky” started to play from the heavens, and he swung and hit. He had focus, he had determination (probably mostly not to let a girl make him look bad), he had tight shoes. Another swing, another hit. He was really showing everyone what it takes to be a climber. And then, he was finished, ready to come down. He sat back in his harness and waited to be belayed down. Ingo, the guide, called to him to just stand…he was only about three feet off the base.
Maybe Joe wouldn´t have bothered me so much if he hadn´t been one of those very annoying breed of American travelers who tries to make friends with internationals by loudly lambasting Americans – like somehow through doing this he becomes less of one himself? And then that comment about the U.S. Military being composed of the stupidest of all Americans. That one really made my blood boil.
But anyhow, I had made it to the top while he could not. And even though I´m a girl, he´s the one who swung like one.
The Mýrdalsjökull glacier is the third largest in Iceland. It´s massive and beautiful and rapidly melting, as are most glaciers on our planet, I suppose. Chris and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the ascent, fully appreciating the fact that we were actually climbing up a glacier – an ancient, powerful, life-giving force – something that very soon, people may no longer be able to do.
Dinner tonight was at a Thai restaurant in Reykjavik with Niina and Elif, our Turkish friend who just today arrived.
Niina and I haven’t seen each other in 10 years and we haven’t seen Elif in 12. It’s amazing how it seems like no time has gone by. 🙂