Heart of Winter 2007
"Come on, Kirsten, find us a place to sleep," Janet mutters as she feeds an arm’s length of rope through her belay device. She lifts the zippered front of her parka over her chin, nodding her head forward to warm her nose. In the falling light, she looks like a turtle pulled into her shell.
Shifting in my harness, I lean toward the rock to check the stack of blue-and-yellow coils draped over Janet’s foot. "Kirsten, twenty feet!" I yell up the granite wall, cupping my hands around my mouth like a megaphone. But she can’t hear me. The wind, a constant companion in the Patagonian mountains, has picked up since Kirsten took the lead. Gusts whip up the valley unexpectedly, throwing us off balance and slapping pack straps and slings across the skin of our faces.
This is being in the mountains, I think, as my vision strays from the snaking path of the ropes. Cerro Torre stands along the ridgeline behind us, its slender summit still visible despite the clouds that have been teasing us all day. I stare across at its icy walls and wonder if anyone is up there, caught like us by the approaching night.