Monday, July 26, 2010


I was up at 4am, thinking of snow blowing across the surface of the Vatnajokull. I thought about the north face of Dead Man Peak, where Chiu and I had to rappel off a single piton in a storm one winter; that piton must still be there in the rock. On the sea floor thirty miles off Panama is a favorite rope of mine, swept off the bow of the sailing raft one night. I imagine the piton taking on a spot of rust; but no, it's chrome-molybdenum, it will survive a very long time and since nobody climbs that face I doubt the piton will ever be found. The rope is synthetic and I can only wonder how long it will skid and heave there on the sea floor with the occasional storm up above.

I though of flying my wing; I could feel it up above me, and I thought of how I will look up at it and then down past my legs again at the frozen surface of the Chukchi Sea. I'll turn easily to the right, towards land, and start setting up my landing. My flights will be short, the cliff is only a thousand feet high, so I'll only be up a few minutes at a time unless I have a bit of wind. I envisioned the terrain and the safe ways up the slope and the ones I'd have to avoid because of avalanche danger.

I thought about how I'm glad I wrapped up climbing when I did. The culture had changed and suddenly a lot more people were climbing; there were indoor gyms where people climbed plastic holds screwed into plywood. People were talking about 'play', which I never understood because I'd never thought of climbing as fun; I wanted a battle every time I went out. There was a lot of hugging going on, which was really disconcerting. I was always satisfied with shaking my partner's hand, if that, but now there was all this hugging and talk of a 'sense of community'. On a summit my partner and I usually passed the water bottle back and forth, looked at the sky, looked at our watches, and started working out the descent plan.

I didn't understand all the externalization; everyone wanted to talk about climbing. The word 'therapy' was in wide circulation. It made me want to pull my own teeth out with pliers.

Why did everyone want to talk so much?

My mind went back to that beautiful piton in the rock, and snow blowing across the ice cap.

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