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Short Pitches Writing Contest Winner

[Photo] Tara Kramer collection

In April, Alpinist launched its first online writing contest, Short Pitches. After receiving more than fifty entries (read them all here), we had a tough job to do: pick one. We finally have, and that winner is Tara Kramer of Dubuque, Iowa, who will receive a free one-year subscription to Alpinist and—even better—her edited story will be published in Issue 26 (release date: December 1, 2008). We thought you might like to learn a bit more about Tara, so a brief biography follows her winning entry.

[Photo] Tara Kramer collection

With Touch in My Breath

In my waking I measure the colors of morning. The whiskey-netted greens. The just-breathing blues. The brown, too, of you. At dawn I warm my toes and boil water for tea. I wait for you to catch the trout, do yoga on the cold, wet grass. I watch the quiet simmer slow and look through pages for new dreams and old ascents.

We waddle. I catch the sun. Under the blankets, in the van, I count the cans on the fence, and the sheep race off. I keep your days outnumbered and kiss you before it isn’t too cold or too late outside the blankets outside the van door. Your tingled touch is in my skin. I pause the moment of holding our comings and goings and good-byes. How we use these cliffs to lie face to face and realign old loves with new.

Day breaks bold. We find our way to roofs. You unroll a rope of desert dirt, feel cold on crimps. For each there is a crack, an edge, a fine fresh dust to rekindle a coupled focus, to rework our bodies’ balance. In trembling and warmth, I close my mind and look on with nothing but this movement, with touch in my breath. I hold uncertainty at the sleeves. Wipe dirt off my soles, clip chains, breathe the hills beyond, and before another, lower back to you, by you. Always back to you.

At dusk the faces shine blue and silver and reawaken stillness. Here, these nexts and lasts consume the slow textures of climbs, the way we change our ups and downs to side by sides, the way we change morning to warmth and winter to this fall. In this dangling between you and the rock, between love and time, I’m in the process of untangling my body from ropes and fear.

–Tara Kramer, Dubuque, Iowa

[Photo] Tara Kramer collection

About Tara Kramer

[Photo] Tara Kramer collection

After spending several years climbing around France, Massachusetts, and the Western U.S., I returned home to Iowa to finish my undergraduate degree and pursue writing in what felt to be a more intellectually stimulating environment. I was left to climbing muddy, questionable limestone with a small but fierce group of local climbers. We spent endless hours at the crags and the tiny gym, finding solace in the short, pumpy routes, and anxiously awaiting trips to Horse Pens, the Creek or Red Rocks. I decided to study abroad in New Zealand for a semester to be closer to more climbing, and I quickly planned an independent study project in an attempt to find a balance between my existence as a rock climber that cherishes the grace of the physical world and a writer that needs the depth of the intellectual world. The project quickly turned into an experimental sort of honors thesis that upon my return to the States allowed me to explore through poetics the themes of balance, fear, landscape, relationships, and time that shaped me as a climber.

Since graduation in May, I’ve spent the summer working at an organic farm in Crested Butte, Colorado and climbing as much as possible, at Rifle, the Creek and local little crags. In October I’ll be heading south for the “summer” to work for the U.S. Antarctic Program at McMurdo Station. And then, more climbing.

Stay tuned to for more chances to get published.