I Just Want to be Held

by Kelly Cordes
Heart of Winter 2010

A mess of gear lay strewn before us in Pakistan’s Charakusa Valley. Too much stuff. I stared 8,000 feet up at K7, where we would soon receive a righteous ass-whuppin’, then looked at Scott DeCapio and fluttered my big doe eyes.

“What do you think about bringing just one sleeping bag?” I asked.

My desire to go light comes down to one primary thing: laziness. I hate carrying a heavy pack. I’ll sometimes go to absurd ends to avoid it, which leaves me shivering on some godforsaken mountainside, cuddling with a swarthy dude for warmth before rapping off feeling ashamed and confused.

For all of the chest-thumping “single-push” and “light-and-fast” bravado – something I know well – an unlikely link exists between this decidedly macho endeavor and the decidedly un-macho act of snuggling up with another dude. You know, the ManSpoon.

“No way,” Scotty said.

After all these years of climbing together, we’re like those old married couples who sleep in separate beds. Some people just aren’t into the ManSpoon – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Some, apparently, even prefer hypothermia. On a midnight descent in a Canadian Rockies thunderstorm with Jim Earl, for example, as we shivered beneath a rock overhang and I scooted closer, I swear Jim growled at me.

Here, in the Charakusa Valley, gorgeous alpine lilacs sprouted from the grass around us, suckling off the morning dew that still clung to their petite petals.

“Scott, this won’t be like the Catholic Church. I know there’s a difference between good touch and bad touch. We’re just two sensitive, mature men who are secure enough to share a sleeping bag to save weight.” In a breathy whisper I added, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

“Look at those guys,” I said, pointing to Vince Anderson, Steve House and Marko Prezelj, merrily frolicking in the meadow after their K7 West ascent. “You think those guys brought three sleeping bags? This is perfectly natural, Scotty.”

Since the negatives of the ManSpoon are apparent enough, I encouraged Scotty by sharing the positives and my claim to fame: I’ve spooned with some of the best alpinists in the United States.

1. Jonny Copp stood a strapping six feet tall, packed 175 pounds of solid muscle, and was a sensitive, music-playing renaissance-type guy. Spooning with the “muscular flautist” in Alaska felt like curling up next to a fire – I miss him.

2. Josh Wharton makes this list for a simple reason: osmosis. In a week of accumulated on-route snugglefests in Pakistan, I’ve become not only a more caring and sensitive person but, more importantly, I’ve become a better climber. (Strangely, though, Josh didn’t get any worse after our climbs.)

3. Supple young Colin Haley may lack size and muscle, but he’s enthusiastic about everything – and enthusiasm goes a long way. Plus, climbing and spooning with Colin in Patagonia allowed me that self-satisfying, has-been-never-was claim that I influenced the next generation. Somehow.

Feeling satisfied with my presentation, and even a little tingly inside, I tilted my head at Scotty, raised my eyebrows, and smiled.

“No,” he said.

I looked again at the huge pile of gear. “What if I wear the wig?”
He ran off to get the other sleeping bag.

About the Author

Patagonia alpine ambassador Kelly Cordes lives in Estes Park, CO, where he works as a writer and senior editor of the American Alpine Journal, and continues to work on his big doe eyes.