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.
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.
Undoubtedly, the five candy bars I ate in celebration of successfully getting down and across the avalanche debris field caused the distress. I should’ve known better, but for various reasons, it’d seemed like a good thing to do at the time. However, once my stomach settled, and I was back home, I realized the whole thing had at least taught me a good lesson.
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”
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.