This week we are re-posting Kevin Mahoney's account of Arctic Rage, (WI6+ R A2, 4500'), from Alpinist 8. Mahoney and partner Ben Gilmore climbed this new route on The Mooses Tooth in March 2004.
THE CLANGOR OF OUR SKI BOOTS on steel stairs broke the winter silence atop the Grands Montets. I turned, my gaze riveted on the North Face of the Drus: "It's there," I told my climbing partner Thierry Renault. "Yes, yes, yes," he murmured in the Frank Zappa style of talking he favored at the time. The wall rose from depths of shadow, silver-streaked and foreboding. The Voie Lesueur formed an almost continuous line of iceand snow-lined chimneys and gullies spiraling from right to left, terminating atop the Grand Dru.
IN A BRICK HOUSE in the tree-lined village of Hildenborough, England, a Tibetan woman listened to her British husband translate books and newspapers, so she could hear how foreign writers depicted her homeland. It was the early twentieth century, in the midst of the first British attempts on Everest.
The past two years I've either been pregnant or a new mom to our 14-month-old boy, Theo. Reflecting on There and Back Again reminds me of a time where climbing and everything surrounding it was my sole focus in life.
After being kidnapped in Kyrgyzstan I suffered from nightmares and loads of mistrust in the world. I went to see a therapist a few times to try and rid my sleep of nightmares, but my therapy and focus on mental healing stopped there. I felt that therapy was a sign of weakness, and that I should be tougher than that.
STARS FLICKER IN A SLOW-SPINNING SKY. Old snow crackles. The moraine—a rubble-strewn lunar surface—creaks under our feet. A yellow moon lights our path. Ice gleams. Houseman and I are creeping like thieves. We're scared the mountain might hear our approach.
THE BEDROOM WAS DARK. Ten minutes, just ten more minutes. I curled the covers over my head. How do you prepare yourself? Soon I'd get up and make the daily prison commute. Ten heavy steel doors would open and close with a clunk as sharp as a cork pulled: ten inmates escorted to the gymnasium.
Mugs had tried the Shark's Fin in 1986 and 1988 with various partners. He was turned back by an avalanche, a shoulder injury and heavy snow. When speaking of the peak, his voice dropped to a reverential whisper. On the back wall of his van, he tacked a tattered cover of Mountain with a photo of the Shark's Fin framed perfectly against a blue sky. He covered the image with a weatherworn prayer flag, only sharing it with his closest friends.
IN THE YEARS AFTER MUGS' DEATH, I climbed in the style he'd imprinted on me, venturing into places where nature was still in power, where everything became simple because no falling was allowed. A new partner, Alex Lowe, joined me on expeditions to Central Asia and Antarctica. In my memory, now, it's hard to fix a single image of him, for he was always moving, drinking coffee, bouncing on his toes. Like all his friends, I found myself caught up in that endless stream of energy, bewildered by what I could achieve while he cheered me on.
SOME WESTERNERS ARE DRIVEN to explore the "unknown," believing that we will discover bliss in uncharted regions, whether we define it as riches, science or self-discovery. To the Hindus of the Gangotri, the known features of the landscape already form part of a sacred, present reality—one that can be seen, touched, heard, tasted and felt.
IN MARCH OF 2011, while skiing in the Tetons, Renan fell off a small cliff. His doctors said he was lucky: although he'd fractured his skull and two vertebrae, and severed a major vertebral artery, his mental acuity would not be compromised. Maybe, as Mugs might say, Ganesh, the mover of obstacles in the Hindu religion, had helped us out. But Renan would have to wear a neck brace for twelve weeks.