ice wall

At its seaward edge, the face of a glacier, ice shelf, or ice sheet normally drops steeply to the water. When this mass of ice doesn’t float but actually sits on the bottom, its ice front is called an ice wall. The rock floor beneath an ice wall can be at or below sea level. In 1854, polar explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane described the front of an Arctic ice sheet as “a glassy wall three hundred feet above the water, with an unknown, unfathomable depth below it—a long, ever-shining line.” In a loose sense, anywhere ice exists in nature one might come up against an ice wall: at a frozen waterfall, on a mountainside ice cliff, or at a glacial icefall. Depending on one’s perspective, such features may be impasses, scenic wonders, or substrates for ascension with crampons, pitons, ice screws, ice axes. In 1879, John Muir clambered up an ice wall—the face of a glacier—in southeastern Alaska, its surface “gashed and sculptured into a maze of shallow caves and crevasses—clusters of glittering lance-tipped spires, gables, and obelisks, bold outstanding bastions and plain mural cliffs—every gorge and crevasse, groove and hollow, was filled with light, shimmering and throbbing in pale-blue tones of ineffable tenderness and beauty.”

Eva Saulitis