The Mountaintop

A Colorado Mountaintop

Finally on the summit,
The top’s beneath my feet.
For a moment I rest upon the throne,
Where the mountain is my seat.

I gaze into my surroundings.
Distances of every kind,
Add to the puzzle,
And overwhelm my mind.

I see the route that led me here,
And the places I could go.
For an instant, the world is at my doorstep,
And possibility stirs below.

The “what might be” almost overwhelms,
As “could” fills up my mind.
With thoughts of hope and treasures,
And riches of every kind.

Then a new plan comes to life,
And it’s time to head below.
I’m excited by what awaits,
And the places I may go.

Continue reading “The Mountaintop”

Nine Square Feet

A Lot to Focus On

No matter how big the face,
Or how full your plate,
When you climb onto the rock,
A new realm you’ll unlock.

The world suddenly shrinks,
To nine square feet.
Living in the moment,
Is truly a treat.

No worries about what tomorrow will bring,
Cause your future rests solely on what you can cling.
The past is a jumble,
Most problems have gone.
What most concerns you,
Is what to step on.

The cracks are for the hands and feet,
And jams are mostly for arms and fists.
A pocketed face looks mighty good,
And a chimney’s for climbing and not for wood.

While getting to the top may be the goal,
Even the holds within reach could be beyond your control.
If you can’t make the next move,
And are stuck in one place,
The top no longer matters,
And a new goal you’ll then chase.

If you try while you’re climbing to think worldly thoughts,
The vision you conjure may be of knots.
But when you make a move forward and stand up on a nub,
The moment will win,
And you’ll understand then.

Audio Version:

ro k climber ascending a crack system with water below
Climbing a crack

Sitting on the Summit– Revisited

a mountain climber sitting on the top of a mountain and looking at the surroundings
So much to see

On top of the mountain
Looking out,
And thinking about,
What you see.

Clouds float past,
Racing fast,
Where do they go?
Perhaps that fact,
I’ll never know.

Something shining and changing,
A reflection I suppose.
Not moving, just bouncing
The sunshine as it goes.

A road across the valley,
Headed toward the hill,
Passes by a frozen lake,
And I can feel the chill.

Crows passing by,
High in the sky.
Flying is something,
I’d like to try.

Rest, relax, ponder, breathe.
Soak it in.

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

And then,
There’s even more to soak in…..

A Marmot scampers,
A warm wind whistles,
A sweet smell fills my nose,
A distant storm erupts,
A Pika chirps,
A lone Columbine catches my eye.

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: 

Man and girl sitting high up above Copper Canyon looking down at the surrounding area

Morning Coffee on Huayna Potosi

Rope team ascending Huayna Potosi in BoliviaAdventure Recommendations

 

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. Sometime in the very early morning, I got up and went outside to relieve myself and, while doing my business, 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. I quickly got chilled, and so, once back in the tent, I pushed myself deeper into my minus 25-degree bag and cinched the hood tightly down around my head. Cinching down and tightening the hood, along with a persistent need to go outside and relieve myself, periodic dozing off, and a mental organization of the rope-up logistics, occupied the bulk of my supposed sleep time.

Continue reading “Morning Coffee on Huayna Potosi”

I Keep On, Keeping On

Mountain climbers nearing the summit of a mountain
A sawtooth ridge

The sawtooth ridge,
Goes up and down.
And other peaks,
Are all around.

Talus, boulders, and
Rocky slabs.
Slippery scree,
That’s sliding free.

Clumps of ice,
Looming clouds.
Bits of snow,
Cold winds that blow.

It seems to be,
A jumbled mess.
The chaos,
Causes mental stress.

Scary heights,
Gurgling gut,
Hands are cold,
There’s no foothold.

A little voice in my head,
Says it’s time to stop.
But nonetheless I move ahead,
And keep on, keeping on.

And then it happens,
I round a bend.
The summit soars,
With mighty roars.

The clouds depart,
The sun breaks through.
To light the way,
And cheer the day.

A marmot chirps,
A Pika hides,
An Eagle floats,
A small bird chides.

A field of flowers,
Fills the sky.
The reds and yellows,
Make me cry.

The rocks give way,
To grassy slopes.
Now easy going,
No need for ropes.

And then, I’m there,
Flatland’s below.
I’ve reached the top,
Rewards bestow.

I’m glad I listened,
When he said,
Take one more step,
And move ahead.

Mountain climbers on a summit ridge
Headed toward the top

Candy Bars on Mt. Hunter- Revisited

Climbers out on the Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter
The Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter

I now concede the fact that it was undoubtedly the five candy bars I ate in celebration of successfully getting across the avalanche debris field that caused the distress. I should’ve known better, but for a variety of reasons, it’d seemed like a good thing to do at the time. At least, I reasoned once back at home, the whole thing had taught me a good lesson.

Continue reading “Candy Bars on Mt. Hunter- Revisited”

Measuring Ancohuma

Climbers running GPS to determine the elevation of Bolivia's Anchohuma
Measuring the summit elevation of Ancohuma

Ancohuma is a big mountain located in an area of the Bolivian Andes known as the Cordillera Real. Until a team of three American teenagers and one adult guide collected summit data in 2002, its elevation was never determined. There was conjecture up to that point that its height was possibly over 23,000 feet, which would make it the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. It ended up being 21,079 feet- tall, but not the tallest. Continue reading “Measuring Ancohuma”

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.

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