Friday, 19 October 2012

Climber - a mountain poem


We came down off that hill in darkness, the three of us, 
carrying our burdens upon our backs
 and in our hearts. 

We started out in joyous mood that morning, 
exalted by the day’s beginning; 
by mountains to be climbed and miles walked, 
called by sharp frosts and brilliant sun 
to the very top of this frozen world. 

Our world; a world of naked rock, 
of snow and calling ravens. 
Our world; a world of gaily painted ropes, 
of boots and clanking axes. 
Our world; a world of white and black, 
of welcome and betrayal. 

 And so it was we journeyed upwards into this kingdom, 
our lives connected by purpose and by rope, 
each step freeing us from those cities in which we worked. 

 Upwards we journeyed, at times moving together, 
at times living alone. 
Knowing we are watched, we watched only for ourselves 
and trusted in our fellows. 

And below our feet: 
that infinity;
the valley floor so distant, 
yet always just a slip away. 

 A slip? What term is this? 
A careless move, a moment's inattention? 
One slip
and this welcome world turns traitor to invaders. 

 And so it happened when least expected. 
One man, content in his existence and his challenge, 
knowing he was safe, was unsafe. 

A slip? Who can say? 
Who amongst us can say what happened 
or comprehend the fact that one of us is dead? 
A slip indeed, held at last by rope 
but with life’s thread already broken. 

 We came down off that hill in darkness, the three of us, 
carrying our burdens upon our backs
 and in our hearts.

N Moyes 1987

These words were dedicated to Steve Caswell who died in 1994 in a tragic mountaineering accident in the shadow of Mont Blanc long after I wrote these words. They are also dedicated to his wife, Pam, who managed to survive that incident, but whose life and those of her family were forever changed by it. She passed away peacefully in September 2012 and was cremated today. Appreciating the importance of helicopter rescue, Pam used to raise money for her local service, the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance to which you can donate here. Childcare commitments mean I couldn't attend her funeral service, so have donated the equivalent of my travel costs to this Air Ambulance Service instead. 

 The poem - if you can call it that - was inspired by my own deep love of the mountains, and especially by the steep, snow-filled gullies of Glencoe in Scotland where I learnt to ice-climb. (The photo used is unrelated to the people or places referred to above.)

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