Many years ago I met another Dawn. Her name is Dawn Rathburn, but she became known as Other Dawn soon after showing up to the first Chicks Rock clinic at Red Rocks in 2009. At this clinic I taught Other Dawn to tie her figure 8 and other rock climbing basics. I then talked Other Dawn into taking a Chicks Ice Clinic in Ouray where I taught her how to ice climb. Over the years Other Dawn has been to many Chicks clinic. I love to climb with Other Dawn. During our Chicks Clinics I always try to have her in my group.
In February 2017 Chicks Climbing and Skiing offered a trip to Bildudalur, Iceland to climb remote and wild backcountry ice climbs. This description was enough for Other Dawn to register for the trip. Seeing her name on the registration, my already high level of excited peaked. I knew we would be in for a great adventure together.
Kitty and I landed in Iceland, already fighting off the jetlag. We took a taxi over to the small domestic airport where we met Other Dawn at the only gate there. She had been in Iceland for a few days getting over jet lag with her husband. Other Dawn was alert and stoked, which quickly infected Kitty and I. Soon we were heading to Bildudalur to scout ice climbs and rendezvous with the rest of the Chicks participants.
Once in Iceland The game was on. The other Chicks participants arrived and we broke into 3 smaller groups for 5 days of climbing. Naturally I picked Dawn as my partner. I knew she would have the skill and the attitude needed to push hard and get some climbing done. Other Dawn is as stubborn and tenacious as I am, and this proved to be key to our success each day.
Climbing in Iceland is unique. There are no guide books, trailheads, or maps, just photocopied pictures taken from the road years ago. To figure out what and where you will climb, each has to go and scout the area. The day before we climb, we drive around looking, scouting, for ice. Once we find something we try to gauge how hard it is and how far away it is. The next morning the team arrives back to the place the ice was last seen. We park on a random spot in the road, and start walking toward the climbing. Finding quickly that we have no sense of scale or how hard things will really be.
One morning we faced our most difficult and challenging approach of our trip. It was steep talus with a shallow dusting of snow. It was hell. At the top of the hill, Dawn and I put down our packs to discuss the climb in front of us. The climb was nothing more than a bunch of pencil sized icicles over wet rock. It was a no go and I was bummed. Even though Other Dawn was challenged by the hike, she never lost her fire. Other Dawn turned to me and said, “If you had told me 8 years ago that I would be here in Iceland with you I would never have believed it. Look at us!”
In a matter of seconds Other Dawn validated every hardship we had faced that day and every other day on the trip. This statement filled me so much joy, I wanted to cry. Through Chicks she had progressed from zero to sixty, and I was a part of that progression. I was so moved. We then shared a Snickers bar and tackled another heinous approach to a climb in marginal conditions.
Traveling around the world to ice climb is a gamble. It takes an adventurous soul to want to take on an objective like ice climbing. Not every moment traveling or climbing in the mountains is perfect. Typically we only remember and boast about the good times. I will proudly remember all the awful post-holing and vertical talus slopes. I will gladly tell about the overhanging detached ice we climbed. Inside Of me, I will smile with glee because I am proud to have given Other Dawn a few small tools needed to become the climber she is today. This trip was as perfect as can be for me because of the opportunity to climb with my friend, Other Dawn.
Chicks will be offering the Iceland trip again this year. Join us in February of 2018 to climb the wild ice climbs of Iceland. We hope you can join us this February when we return to Bildudalur for Ice Climbing in Iceland Trip.