John Freeman's journey up an ice pillar at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, concluded with a fall of about 50 feet followed by a wild ride atop tons of ice. In the end, Freeman would walk away and live to climb the very next day.
Will Gadd paints a wonderful picture of his friend and colleague in the video: "John Freeman, in my view, is one of the safer, more technically sound, well-educated, knowledgeable and sensible people out there. He's not some yahoo that's like, 'Let's ride the icicle!' He's anything but that."
Ice, unfortunately, cares little for things like competence.
Despite confidence that the ice could hold the climb, one fateful pick set the sheet falling down the mountain—and Freeman with it.
I would estimate that I was 15 to 18 meters (50 to 60 feet) above the ground that I landed on. There was a good steep angle to the area directly below the ice that deflected me and the collapsing ice down the slope. I was spun onto my back and traveled about 200 feet down that slope before I came to a stop.
Freeman goes on to say that he is more likely to turn down a similar climb now. But he offered what he thinks may have been the reason the ice collapsed:
A challenging part for me to deal with at first (beside nearly killing myself), was that I believe that my lapse in situational awareness was at play and contributed to the collapse. Watching how hard I was swinging at the end, compared to the rest of the climb, is amazing. The intensity of the climbing pushed me to forget that I was at the most crucial point in the climb and needed to keep the gentle technique going.
File this fall away under a lesson well learned, because it hasn't stopped Freeman from doing what he loves. In the video, he acknowledges how fortunate he was but offers that he wasted little time going back for more.
Freeman states, "I got away with something really lucky. There's literally tons of ice falling with me, and I managed to knock the wind out of myself, and skied out, went home. I think I climbed the next day and the day after that."
And so, we imagine, Freeman will continue climbing. But it's not his ascent of one particular ice pillar that will resonate with fans of the sport. It'll be the brief and sudden fall.
This terrifying video will shock, stun and more than likely garner notice from curious would-be ice climbers. However, it really serves to remind that it's always better to be lucky than good.
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