Myself and Willy, prior to our ascent of Yanapaqcha’s West Face.
There are occasions in ones life when one really doesn’t know what they are doing. Walking into a room and suddenly forgetting why you are there. Waking up in a hotel room and having no idea where you are. Sitting in lectures, sitting in waiting rooms, sitting in traffic, sitting through meetings and thinking – what am I doing here?
I found myself in this frame-of-mind half way up a four hundred metre, 60 to 70-degree sheet of snow, toe spikes kicked into it and a pair of spiky axes in my hands. Thankfully these moments don’t last long until you figure out what is happening and carry on.
It seems weird as I bumble around the rooms in my house that I was ever there. What was I doing? I remember anger mostly. Anger at Willy at the other end of the rope. Anger at the cold. Mainly the cold more than Willy. Anger at physics and geology. But maybe most angry at myself, for having ever been talked into this. Actually, I was most angry at gravity and friction.
I was mostly carrying on. Kicking, pulling and not quite screaming my way to the top. Of course what I remember now is getting there. Not actually getting there of course but rather the imaginary, third person, hallucinatory memory of being on top of a mountain.
I imagine myself bellowing and dancing like some x-rated remake of the ‘Sound of Music’. The mountains are alive with the sound of my hoarse screams of victory. But actually at the time I just wanted to get back down alive. The wind howled around my ears and the sun that poked above the horizon seemed like the weakest, most pathetic sun that had ever lived. But I do have to thank it for what I saw. While my brain tried to figure out the best way back down and how to put my jacket on without it blowing away, my eyes basked in the glory of seeing.
I remember thinking of throwing Willy off the top (only joking mate) but then remembering he was tied to me. And leaving all of my thick socks a thousand miles away. And looking down. Looking down so far that even now my head spins a little. And smiling as the other groups made their way to the top cursing and smiling. And cursing as I remembered I still had to get back down. And I’m pretty sure I still can’t feel my big toe properly.
Mountains are mountains. They are snow and rock and ice. But from this something emerges, and these brief moments staring at the world are glimpses of something. I don’t know what. I say we never can. I say try it and see what you see.
It is in our minds that this becomes a peak and the mundane becomes magical. It is as we descend that we realise what we have achieved. Nothing actually. But we are alive.
I say roll on this season!
By Sam Gibbons-Frendo, Thursday 10th April 2014