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the Scouts with helmets and climbing har- nesses, and attaches crampons to the Scouts’ stiff-toed boots. He just about leaps out of his own boots when describing what he sees. “Look at that!” he says, gesturing toward


the ice wall. “They’ll go back to school on Monday, and it’ll be, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ ‘Oh video games. I got to Level 45. What did you do?’ ‘Oh, I climbed an ice wall.’” The Scouts, in turn, display varying degrees


of nervousness and excitement. Understandable, given the task ahead of them. The ice wall resembles a boot—a short, vertical section of about 30 feet followed by a 45-degree slope, and then the wall goes straight up. The lower section lends itself to beginners, while the upper section challenges intermediate climbers.


After Evert helps fit them with gear, each Scout grabs a pair of ice axes and waits patiently for a brief primer. Though the wall is expansive, safety rules dictate that just two Scouts ascend at a time. Each Scout is hooked to an instructor, who belays them from the ground, holding the rope taut in case of a fall. As the Scouts climb, front-pointing into


the ice, Scouters offer advice disguised as easy banter: “Nice, easy swing; there you go!” “Kick your feet in like you’re kicking a soccer ball. Good.” “Now reach up to your left, and swing a little harder.” “Don’t hit a bulge, hit a depres- sion.” “Use your feet! Ice climbing’s not about your arms. Gooooood!” Slowly, the Scouts climb up the ice like


cautious praying mantises. Ice chips fall like sparkling shards of glass. On the ground, waiting Scouts crane their necks and shout encouragement (“Nathan, you’re a monster!”). On the wall, climbers motivate themselves


with mutters of their own. “Just a small slip … it’s OK. Yeah, I’m doing pretty good.” You don’t get a measure of a boy—or of a man—until he finds himself in a tough situa- tion. And this qualifies. This isn’t the climbing wall you haul out at an 8-year-old’s birthday party. Plenty of Scouts don’t make it to the top of the wall, and the ice doesn’t just make your heart ache. It makes your body—toes to legs to forearms to fingers—ache, too.


TODD LIEBBE WATCHES his 13-year-old son, Quinn, who is at the minimum age for the climbing wall, make his way up. Todd plans to try it after Quinn. Why? “I like to give my kids something to laugh at periodically,” he says.


Quinn hauls himself up the short steep,


makes his measured way along the angled slope, and then, dad cheering him on, pro- ceeds doggedly up the sheer wall. His arms shake. His legs follow suit. Three-quarters of the way up the face, his shoulders slump. “I’m done,” he says quietly. For a moment the still morning considers


this fact. Then Monique Ekker, the instructor belaying his rope, says, “I can give you a break. Just relax. I’ll hold you with the rope.” “OK,” Quinn mutters. “OK break or OK done?” Todd asks. Quinn hesitates.


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