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Chasing Monsters

Words & Photos by Aaron Mulkey //

It’s February, and I have been chasing ice for the last four months. My body and mind are completely in sync, and I feel like all of my training since April of last year is paying off. I have logged over 200 miles chasing unknown ice monsters in the mountains. I like to call them monsters as you have no idea what they will look like and how big or scary they might be. This is also what adds to the excitement of chasing the unknown. As I write this, I have collected 17 new routes so far this Winter. I am willing to bet that many of those have never been seen by a human. That’s pretty exciting.

The season started off with a bang–literally–when this large pillar broke just as I was transferring onto it. Thankfully, I knew there was a 50/50 chance of this happening, and we took all of the precautions. Everyone was okay, and we all walked away.

The mountains did give us a consolation prize as we hiked out. Post holing all the way, my climbing partner Justin tripped over large paddles, barely sticking out of the snow. He showed no hesitation when deciding to carry it out the remaining miles. 

As the season went on, I was lucky to have some solid partners that were willing to hike far and climb fast. We were able to tick off some fantastic ascents. Some came as a surprise as we rounded a corner on an established route, and others we just got lucky on hikes into unknown territory.

One day, we hiked over 12 miles on off trail side-hilling talus fields only to come around a corner two hours before dark and find two large ice falls. My partner and I looked at each other and made the decision that it was going to be a long night. We figured we had hiked all the way in, and we weren’t going to let darkness scare us away. We were able to climb both new ice routes, and when we hit the ground just as the sun was setting, we were on a high that even a long-suffering hike out wasn’t going to take away. Two hours later and not even halfway back to the car, that high did end, but we put our heads down after the last rappel in the dark and moved on. We reached the car at 10 pm, 15 hours after we’d left it. But, three first ascents made it all worth it. 

With only a couple of months left chasing these ice monsters, I couldn’t be more excited for some more epics in the mountains. 

Aaron Mulkey //