Yesterday’s Sax-Zim-Festival field trip to Duluth held an unexpected surprise. Every year the birding trip stops at Stoney Point to observe gulls and waterfowl in the open water on Lake Superior. But there is no open water. The lake is 95% frozen. Locals say this hasn’t happened for 20 years.
In the absence of birds we walked down to the lake, and then on it — a moonscape experience.
The inshore ice was flat and walkable but the pressure of offshore ice and wind had left a landscape of broken plates stacked in piles and covered in snow.
Each piece was thick and clear like a pane of glass.
Fifty yards out the pressure was orogenic, so strong that it created a mountain ridge of bluish, broken ice more than 15 feet tall, so high we couldn’t see the lake beyond it. (Latre note, 2018: Though I didn’t know it at the time, these pressure ridges are called stamukhi.)
In this video from my cell phone you can see how big and strange it is.
Inevitably, the ice mountain posed an irresistible challenge. Two guys climbed it. Eventually I climbed too. Going up was like climbing a hill of shale but coming down was a butt-slide in an ice cube tray.
So now I have three “Life Lake” experiences: I saw Lake Superior for the first time, I walked on it, and then I climbed it.
(photos and video by Kate St. John)