by Katie Ives
Heart of Winter 2010
In just a few hours, late August turned into midwinter. My partner’s dark eyes dulled. Ahead, the North Ridge of the Grand rose deeper into shadow.
We were already climbing in our down jackets and softshell pants; we had nothing warmer left in our packs. The pitch above us rippled without a clear line to follow, merely some wavering ice tendrils like the veins of fallen leaves, the sheen of verglas like a fading forest trail.
“Just so you know,” he said, “I’m tired and cold and scared.”
We’d wasted too much time on the traverse from Mount Owen, fumbling along ledges and down wrong turns, until our judgment and our fingers numbed: Were we lost again?
“Do you want me to lead this one?” I said. He was older and stronger, but I’d gotten him into climbing so I had to take care of him, I thought.