Summit Day

Nearing the summit

Time to go,
The summit calls.

It’s way before sunrise,
No time have I slept.
It’s early, I’m tired,
That fact I accept.

I turn on my Headlamp,
To light up the tent.
Then fire up the stove,
To melt snow’s the intent.

I boil the water,
Must eat and hydrate.
And fill water bottles,
The coffee can wait.

Eat some oatmeal,
Oats and honey,
Find my sunglasses
It’s gonna be sunny.

I put on my bibs,
Inside sleeping bag.
Then finally crawl out,
But don’t lollygag.

I lace up my boots,
My fingers are numb,
I wonder if,
I have a right thumb.

Then out of the tent,
And into the morning.
Wind slaps my bare cheeks,
I think it a warning.

I look to the sky,
The stars overwhelm,
I’m taken aback,
I see a new realm.

So much to do,
And I’m feeling small.
Cold breeze makes me shiver,
I’m hitting a wall.

I fumble with gear,
Crampons, and rope,
My stomach is churning,
I think I’m a dope.

Then just at that moment,
Off to the east,
A full moon rises.
And backlights the peak.

The sight of the mountain
Is of no surprise.
It reminds me
Just why I am there, I surmise.

A warm energy of sorts,
Flows into my veins,
And melts away,
My various pains.

Enthralled and excited,
I rise to the task,
Put on my crampons,
And pull down my mask.

I tie into the rope,
Then take a first step.
No longer feeling
Cold or inept.

Darkness eventually succumbs to the sun.
The mountains awaken,
Each second to none.

Ridges and couloirs,
Faces and shoulders.
Headwalls and passes,
Crevasses and boulders.

A world full of stories,
That change with the time.
This morning I fretted,
But now I just climb.

Audio Version: 

Summit Day

Nighttime Revisited

on the Glacier

The night was long and restless. He was cold inside his sleeping bag even though the three of them had worked so hard to make things cozy. And then, there was the wind. It blasted the tent relentlessly, and he was worried about getting blown off the ridge. “What would that be like,” he tried to imagine? There was no actual sleep for him. But there was a sort of vigilant grogginess. While his body was mostly still, his mind actively raced in a frenzy of hyperactive speculation. He was uncomfortable, and the situation was damn near depressing. But thankfully, he wasn’t outside climbing toward the summit- yet. That would happen soon enough.

Continue reading “Nighttime Revisited”

The Top

The Top of Huayna Potosi; Cordillera Real, Bolivia

Take the broad shoulder
Above the Upper Lake
To the North Ridge.
Then, follow it up to an obvious headwall.
Bypass that to the east
And gain the summit pyramid.

Thirty degrees,
Mixed terrain.
One step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Dirt, rock, then snow.
Be careful
With your feet.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Crampons,
Balling up.
Tap with
Your ice axe.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Look to the west,
And see the mountains
Create the horizon.

Step.
Rest,
And breathe.

The rope,
Keep it
On the downside.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Chunks of snow,
Sliding
Down the slope.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

The tie-in,
Check
The knot.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Ice axe,
In the
Uphill hand.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Don’t fall,
But be ready
To self-arrest.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Blue sky overhead,
Cloud build-up
In the west.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Hot and thirsty,
Snow and ice
Everywhere.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Wind,
Slapping
The face.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Keep following
The trail
In the snow.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

The top,
Over there and
Not so far.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Steeper,
But only
For a short distance.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Water,
Got to stop
To take a drink.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

That has to be it.
The summit ridge,
Straight on up to the top.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Plumes of snow,
Being blown
Over the top.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Everything,
Seems to be
Below.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Which one
Is the actual
Summit?

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

Pain,
Lungs burning, and cold feet.
Joy.

Step,
Rest,
And breathe.

No more up.
No time to rest.
Don’t waste your breath.

Just one more step.

The top.

Alpine Summit Revisited

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Rocky, icy
Mountain summit,
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also,
Warm and calm.

I go ascending,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Glaring sun,
Burning lungs.
Frozen fingers,
And biting wind.

Pain gives way to persistence.
A deep breath of anticipation
Supercharges my lungs.

My focus sharpens.
No more blurry,
No more struggle,
No more doubt.

Within moments,
The horizon magically sinks,
As the mountaintop rises,
And welcomes me
Onto its crest.

I’ve won the battle of my efforts,
And the mountain the war for my soul.

Audio Version: 

On the Summit

Glaciers

The Kahiltna Glacier

Oozing forward.
Glaciers grow,
Or at least they used to.

Sometimes tumbling,
But mostly flowing,
And relentlessly scouring
The ground below.

Slow, deliberate,
Always persistent.
Marching to the sea.

Their rumbling movements ebb and flow.
Causing pressures to come and go.
Somewhere something has to give,
And so, they crack.

That’s what a crevasse is.

Some of those are open,
But many go unseen.
At times they seem like pits of peril,
Cold, and dark, and deep.

But in most cases,
They’re awe-inspiring, magical places
Filled with intricate light.

The bottom line is
If you’re in one looking ‘round
The kind of place you’ll see.
Depends upon just why you’re there
The reason is the key.

And the same can be said
For the whole of these magnificent rivers of ice.

On the one hand,
They’re intimidating, frozen, and indestructible.
But on the other,
They’re alluring, invigorating, and easily broken.

on the Glacier

The Ruth

On the Ruth

Looking out the window
Of the little plane,
As we near our landing site
On the Ruth Glacier.

In the Alaska Range.

First, we flew over trees, rivers, and the lower Glacier.
Now, we’re flying through the Great Gorge
Between startlingly huge mountains
And above the river of ice.
The world is the color of snow, rock, and sky.

A few especially prominent peaks dominate.
Denali, the great one, is straight ahead but not close.
The Moose’s Tooth is to our right but nearby,
Imposing in scale but welcoming.

In the Alaska Range.

Suddenly, we break free of the Gorge
And enter the Ruth Amphitheater.
The venue of venues.

The Cessna turns left
Toward the Mountain House.
We haven’t even landed yet,
But the concert has already begun.

In the Alaska Range.

What do we do, I wonder?
I take a deep breath,
And realize that thankfully we’re not too late,
Because the music never ends.

The sky is clear
And the landing site on the snow vivid.
The closer we get to the ground,
The more massive and magnificent the peaks become.

In the Alaska Range.

The plane touches down and stops.
I open the door and step
Out onto the Ruth.

Warm in my parka
And astounded by what I see in every direction.

There are few people, no instruments,
No conductor,
And not much of an audience.

But I feel the full force of the music
And am compelled
To whisper to myself where all can hear, “Bravo.”

Audio Version:

In the Glacier Plane

Alpine Summit

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Mountain summit
Rock and ice.
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also warm
And calm.

Ascending always,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Confidence and
Proud persistence
Get you to the top.
And once you’re there,
Just look around,
The vision will astound.

Audio Version:

On the Summit

Rock Climbing

Climbing in Fremont Canyon

Up.
Vertical.
Mostly face to off-width.
Fingertips, edge, and arm jam.
Control, breathe,
First ledge.

Up.
Keep moving.
Touching and feeling.
Conserve energy.
Climbing
With your feet.

Up.
Don’t look down,
But do look around
At your world
Within reach.
One move
At a time.

Up.
Thank God hold,
Blocky granite, cold.
Three pitches
To the top.
But first things,
First.

Up.
To the left, a ledge,
Trust your edge.
Shift your weight,
Over your foot.

Up,
Pinch the roundish nub.
Balance and
Trust your instinct.
Think up.

Up,
Only the next move matters.
Everything
Is within five square feet.
One step,
Changes your world.

Audio Version:

Reaching for a Hold

Recipe

On the Summit

Water,
Sand,
Snow,
And rock.

Fly fish,
Cycle,
Ride,
And walk

Gravel,
Grass,
Mud,
And scree.

Backpack,
Wander,
Scale,
And ski.

Mountain,
Cavern,
Dirt,
And ice.

Explore,
Trek,
Cave,
And climb.

Talus,
Forest,
Stream,
And crag.

Summit
Surf,
Sail,
And cast.

Tundra,
River,
Lake,
And hill.

Yoga,
Swim,
Camp,
And chill.

Ocean,
Desert,
Cirque,
And peak.

Prepare,
Proceed,
Persist,
And Seek.

Simple,
Treasures,
Pure,
And sweet.

Audio Version:

On the Road

Sitting on the Summit

Looking Toward the Conchos

On the top.
Looking out,
Seeing things
You didn’t know
Were there.

Clouds float past,
Racing fast,
Where do they go?
Perhaps,
We cannot know.

But for the moment-
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe.
Soak it in.

Sitting still,
A moment longer,
Thinking harder,
Feeling stronger.

And then……….

A Marmot scampers,
A warm wind whistles,
A crow soars past,
A distant storm erupts,
A Pika chirps,

No mystery has been solved,
No thing resolved.
More questions,
Than answers.

But for another moment,
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe,
Soak it all in.

Audio Version:

The Summit of Huayna Potosi- Bolivia