Weekend Warm-Up: Searching for Christmas Tree

In this story about idealism, a university teacher and ice climber escapes the chaotic, smog-ridden and claustrophobic metropolis of Beijing for the frigid purity of northern China. Here, crags and ice walls beckon the experienced climber. 

Our Chinese protagonist searches for the obscure and rarely seen Christmas Tree, an ice wall hidden deep in the canyons of the Taihang Mountains. Formed by the combination of rushing water, subzero temperatures and freezing winds, the branches of ice gracefully spread out upon the rocks like, you guessed it, a Christmas tree. A photo he once saw is his only sign of its existence.

Clueless villagers, unsuccessful drone footage, steep roads, vile weather and a minor car accident all seemed to foil his attempt to track down his elusive target. Refusing to give up, he follows a foggy valley and finds a wise old man with all the answers.


Yet the source of his pilgrimage proves evanescent in the face of the warming climate since his reference photo was taken. He finds the waterfall, but the Christmas Tree has already collapsed and reverted to liquid water.

So the year passes, and life goes on. Our climber returns to his simple routine, until seemingly by divine providence, he discovers the return of the Christmas Tree. Dropping everything, he hits the road to climb it before it disappears.

The Christmas Tree, as expected, is unstable and in need of a gentle human touch. Carefully and precisely, he tops out. With an unexpected dose of melancholy, he reflects that he may never find another goal that measures up to his “Merry Christmas”.