Fifteen feet above my last screw, the ice turns to complete shit. Unconsolidated, candled, air-filled, de-laminated mush. No way this crap is gonna take a good stick. I can see the water trickling behind the flow on this late season WI5. The rope hangs from my harness, clear of the ice. Checking in on my placements, I have one mega placement at shoulder level. Hips close to the ice, standing tall, I can feel the back of my ax pressing on my chest. Good feet. Swinging my one tool at the mush, an unsettling crack slams through the icicle just below my feet rattling my nerves and shaking my confidence. A drip of sweat on the tip of my nose. Breathing regains control. Forearms beginning to burn, working my feet up on the front points of my crampons – a little higher, a little higher still – I need to reach what looks like decent ice just out of reach above the mush and get another screw. Reaching. Reaching higher.