Cathedral of Ice by Justin Friedman
 It’s weird to think that a place so wild can be so formally arranged. The intricate foundation of blue and white glistening ice breaking free from its glacial captor as it cascades over the falls somehow has more artistry than the most intricately fabricated sculpture. The roar of the ice as it crumbles into a jagged grave of shattered rock and snow is more elegant than a symphony, with the low grumble of rocky kettledrums and the high shrieks of crystalline woodwinds. The bergschrund is an unsteady entry bridge, spanning a moat of great, deep schisms in the wind-whipped and rippled snowfield that only brave, ambitious, or lucky fools shall pass. Off the bergschrund are towering gates of snow and ice and sandy brown stone streaked with veins of bone white. Great, Assyrian-esque gates to the cathedral of ice that, even lacking a pair of six-legged lions, rival those kept in the British Museum or deep under Middle Eastern sand. The humbling gates give me a sense of safety, cradling me in their rocky arms, blocking my sun-kissed face from the stinging wind with their monumental backs. Yet the gates also warn all who pass through that they harbor a powerful entity, a force that one should not even attempt to challenge. The gates give me a jittery welcoming feeling, a sedate concoction of measured anticipation and drive, only rivaled in my life by walking out of the dimly lit passageways of Madison Square Garden or Citi Field into the glorious light, a roaring crowd, and the communal energy of sport. Past the gates lies a great up-sloping snowfield, blinding to look at with its midday glare. The incline increases with an almost mathematical certainty, as if I were climbing on the ink line of a god’s pen. If the gates to the cathedral of ice evoked restless excitement, then the snowfields past them evoke lucid motivation. The high mountain air makes me feel clear, yet my push to great heights is laced with a tint of lunacy. The snowfields still gilded with a thin sheet of ice from last night’s storm must then evoke a complex motivation. It must be that the spires of rock three hundred and sixty degrees surrounding me, shooting violently out of the upper glacier like awesome warriors’ fists through the flesh of their enemies, command me to climb higher, for a reason I scarcely understand. The grade builds in intensity until the intricate tasks of cutting new footholds with the crampons strapped to my quivering legs and skillfully striking my ice axe into the snow become overwhelming. The mountain and gravity and the breath of twelve gods push on my chest and tell me that I cannot do it, that I have come all of this way yet I should not continue. Do I respect the gods or let the heat of my summit fever prevail? Do I take shelter in my cozy layers of Permaloft and fleece like a scared child in his mother’s arms or do I ignore the dry, stinging pain in my fingertips and persevere? I must continue on. I am hooked; I am an addict of the crisp mountain air, the one-hundred-mile views, the burn and tingle in my thighs and tug of my pack. This is the conflict one must be not only willing to face but seeking to face when one ventures into the most secluded of natural spaces. The expanses neatly tucked away below the summits of Mt. Olympus stress every muscle in the body: physical, logical, emotional, spiritual, mystical. These spaces force you to complete the algebra of life; these spaces force you to balance your goals and the physical laws of nature, the depth of your yearning and the depth of every hidden crevasse. The swath of perilous, enlightening, and euphoria-inducing snow between the bergschrund and the summit of Mt. Olympus is a place I hold dear. It affords me the physical and mental altitude to fully grasp my motivations and influences. It supplies me with a perch fit for twelve gods from which I take notice of my ice-cold happiness and reflect on my pilgrimage to some state of windy, high mountain enlightenment. It sanctions me and provides me with the tools to sort and understand my existence and my place in human life.