Jen Olson Ice Climbing Haffner Creek Kootenay, British Columbia

Photograph by Paul Bride

“They are magical and lovely,” says ice climber Jen Olson of the ice stalactites and stalagmites seen here in Caveman cave located a half-hour hike from Upper Haffner Creek in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. “It’s so fun to take pictures of them, as well as the gigantic hoar frost on the roof of the cave.”

Olson is seen during a difficult section on a route called Neolithic. “This is a big move, and when you release the lower tool, your body responds by swinging past horizontal to compensate. Controlling the swing is the crux of the route,” says Olson, who lives in Canmore, Alberta, and works as a mountain guide and climbs competitively. “On this route, you have all your weight on your arms for long periods of time, so the clock is ticking. You need to keep moving to keep holding on.”

Getting the Shot

“Jen had already been out to Haffner earlier in the year and mentioned that the ice stalagmites were really big—maybe too big. I had to see for myself,” recalls photographer Paul Bride. When Bride arrived at the cave he found himself battling harsh shadows, wet conditions, and fluctuating temperatures. “The difference in temperature within the mouth of the cave and ten feet outside was incredible. My camera kept fogging up and I was getting soaked from the dripping water.”

As Bride explored the cave to find the images he wanted to shoot, he saw this frame. “Looking back, I remember thinking how cool the composition looked through my viewfinder. I felt like it could be a special image.”

When sun began to burn off the morning clouds, Bride knew he needed to get his shot before shadows overtook the scene. “By hiding the forest behind the stalagmites, taking a reading from the natural light on the wall behind Jen, and a second reading from the ice stalagmites, I was able to create a balanced look throughout the image.”

Bride photographed with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 16-35mm, f/2.8L USM lens.