The Climbing Life

Posted on: February 9, 2016

[Photo] Paul Zizka

South Buttress

November 1981. Bill points to a poster of the Alaska Range. Steep slopes, swept by avalanches, funnel down to abrupt cliffs of blue ice. We're in my house perched on a hillside above Juneau.

"That's the Wickersham Wall," I say. "I'm going to try and climb Denali."

"When did you decide that?"


He chuckles. He knows I've been hanging out with Mary. Around here, she's the short blond woman you always see running trails with her hair in a yellow ban- dana. The local girl who went away to a private college and came back to guide sea-kayaking trips. I'm a lawyer and a decade older. When Mary and I first met in Febru- ary 1980, I thought of myself as an outdoorsman, but I'd seen too many last calls at the Red Dog Saloon. Her blue eyes shone as she described a pinnacle of ice collapsing into Glacier Bay and a surge wave racing toward her kayak. In her apart- ment, I noticed a picture of a former boyfriend doing a martial arts kick atop the slim granite spires of the Rabbit Ears. This must be the kind of guy who turns her head, I thought.

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