Nick Bullock recounts his first ascent of the North Buttress of Nyainqentanglha Southeast in Tibet with Paul Ramsden in 2016, and his subsequent return from Tibet to England to help his aging father. Back home, Bullock confronts the death of his mother, the loss of climbing friends and the uncertainties of Brexit. This story first appeared in Alpinist 57 and was recently named the best Mountaineering Article of the year at the Banff Mountain Book Festival.
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.