ONLY A FEW CLIMBERS have seen Mt. Chobutse, the 6686-meter mountain above my village in the Rolwaling Valley of Nepal. In Tibetan scripture, the original name of the peak is Khang Tagri. Although the north and south ridges rise in gradual arcs, the west face looks as sharp as an upturned axe.
Ice climbing is about high-energy output in cold, wet conditions. Adapting to changing weather can be as much of a struggle as the climbing itself in the winter season. I try to find layers that are versatile across a range of conditions.
JANUARY: SHADOWS AND SILENCE fill the canyon of Zion National Park. Within the Emerald Pools amphitheater, icicles clatter to earth. I pull out my binoculars. A gently overhanging prow on Mt. Majestic catches wan winter sun. Bracketed by deep clefts, the sleek, southeast-facing buttress rises through dark-red sandstone and mahogany iron stains.
COFFEE LIFTS ON THE AIR. A dog marks time (and place) in the distance, its tail a silent metronome. The cold air, gently sinking, pulls a breeze across my face. I don’t like it. I want to crawl deeper in my bag. From the floor of the living room in John “Deucey” Midddendorf’s Hurricane home, I can just see the top of Mt. Kinesava, I think, starting to light up in the eastern sun.