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

Getting There

Nearing The Top

To the top!

Sweat mixed with rain,
Too hot for jacket,
But cold makes for pain.

Take a step forward,
Slide half a step back.
Gentle breeze pulls you onward,
Brutal gust makes you crack.

Stop, rest, breathe.
Sip some water,
Have a cracker,
And then, move on.

If you look up,
The top seems a long distance.
But keep moving forward,
And show your persistence.

The load is heavy,
And it only gets worse,
As the grind gets longer.
So don’t try and converse.

Stop, rest, breathe.
Sip some water,
Have a cracker,
And then, move on.

Each step gets you closer,
Believe it or not.
Rest assured your effort,
Won’t be for naught.

You’re undoubtedly tired,
And perhaps you’re wet.
That your legs are like rubber,
Is a good bet.

More than likely,
Your hands are like bricks,
Your feet have no feeling,
And your arms feel like sticks.

But suddenly, you’re there.

Stop, rest, breathe.
Your goal achieved.
Lookout and remember,
What you’ve received.

Sip some water,
Have a cracker,
And then, move on.

Audio Version:

The Summit

Nighttime

The night before Summit Day…..

Climbers in Alaska
The Climb

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. 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”

The Cup of Coffee on Huayna Potosi

Climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia without a morning cup of coffee.

Ice climbing practice on Huayna Potosi
Practicing ice climbing in Bolivia

It was cold and restless sleep at our high camp on Bolivia’s Huayna Potosi. As I think back, it was actually more like quiet time, except for the constant banging of the tent flap out in the frigid, high altitude night. When I’d gone outside briefly, I’d marveled at how clear and full of stars the sky was. But that marvel was tempered by my personal acknowledgment that ultimately the clear skies would just mean even colder temperatures. At least, I reasoned, since there was no threat of snow, I wasn’t going to have to get up and shovel any of it away from the tent in the wee hours of the morning.

Continue reading “The Cup of Coffee on Huayna Potosi”