111- Expedition Log
Expedition log: January 12th, 2023.
We set off on our expedition late last night. With wide open roads and perfect conditions, it took us less time than expected to arrive at our base camp situated in the heart of Munising, just blocks off the mighty Lake Superior. The crew wasn’t exactly thrilled with a lack of cell phones and sleep as we initiated our first alpine start. It was approximately 4 am when we started to prepare for the day although we let the crew get a little extra sleep waking them at 5 am. I packed a container of instant coffee, making me well-prepared for the expedition with only 3 hours of sleep. There were only 8 of us total packing into a 15-passenger van, and with the amount of gear packed, it felt like we were completely full. At 6 am on Friday the 13th, we departed our exquisite Airbnb basecamp in search of frozen cliffs on and near the shores of Superior.
When we arrived at the parking lot, we stepped out of the van to a bitter cold breeze that blew off the lake, immediately sucking the joy out of the climbers. The extra layers of clothing quickly came out and the climbers threw on their heaviest gear to make the hike in. For our first day, we chose to investigate some of the ice closer to us which worked out well as it was a Friday morning and the cliffs were empty. After a group huddled prayer by the van, we set out on our approach to the climbs. We hiked approximately 1/4 mile down the road until we had to jump over a small ditch drainage with running water to 100 yards up a snow hill. It had been 3 years since I’d seen the beautiful ice formations formed on the sandy cliffs. Coming right back to the exact cliff I had learned how to climb ice years ago brought back memories and even helped me put myself in some of our crew’s boots being their first time.
Being just 6 hours from our homes in lower Michigan you would think we were a world away. Winter in the Lower Peninsula feels more like late fall or early spring, with no snow, grey skies, with bare trees. Winter in the Upper Peninsula was a winter wonderland, (or as some of the crew started calling it a “Winterland”. ) We were in the middle of the woods, still getting a small breeze sneaking through the tree’s coming from the lake. It was the only thing you could hear when you stopped to listen, the forest was completely still with us being the only party disrupting the peace. Touching the ice you could feel water trickling down awaiting colder temps to freeze. Still tasting the burnt instant coffee in my mouth I attempted to take a full inhale through my nose to truly experience the freshness that comes from being in the wild. With a completely blocked left nostril and a runny nose on the right, it was safe to say that I needed to come back soon to get the full “Winterland” experience.
We set the guys up in a spot to hang out at the base of the cliffs, dropped packs, and laid out closed foam pads to sit on so no butts were in the snow. Matt and I scrambled up the side to set ropes on a piece of ice and we determined it was big enough and safe enough to climb on. One of my favorite parts of climbing has been the problem-solving aspect of building anchors that are safe enough to support our team. Under Matt’s careful eye I built an anchor system off two bomber trees with our static line, created a master point, and with opposite opposing locking carabiners threaded the dynamic rope through for everyone to climb on. (In other words…it was SAFE). After another scramble and a rappel, it was time to get these guys on the ice.
One by one they started climbing to the top. Without doing this before, they were crushing it! Some were careful and meticulous, balancing their way up like climbing a ladder, while others took a more aggressive approach, swinging and kicking their hearts out. It brought me joy watching them fight their way to the top regardless of the discomfort or pain they were feeling. Rather than pursuing a life of comfort, each one of them stepped out of their comfort zone to experience the joy that came from the journey.
We can often see this same struggle in life. Sometimes we find ourselves swinging at life, too busy and overbooked to slow down and find security in our steps. Too often we become complacent in our walk with Christ and fail to see the beauty that comes from trusting him. Just like in ice climbing, God is our anchor that is our security, supporting us to take these unknown steps. As you take the first step to climb the wall, you step out in faith knowing that God is supporting you. The further you climb up the wall, the stronger your faith grows as God has shown that as your anchor He will not fail you which gives you the freedom to pursue the difficult obstacles that come. When you reach the top of the wall you look at where God has brought you from and how He has given you the support that you needed on the journey. Each of these guys climbed in their own unique style and was able to look down from the top of the ice and out at the view, reminding them that it was all a part of an epic adventure to get them there, making that 5 am wake up all the more worth it.
What epic adventure are you on right now?