Withering Heights

Mountains 01 25%.


38° C + wind-chill. We’re going to be lucky to survive: pressure is dropping: bitter wind rising.

I’m probably not going to live through this, let alone complete my dissertation. I’m going to try to text it into a few sentences. Let’s face it, who is going to read it otherwise? Truth doesn’t need millions of words.

My fingers are numb. Cope with any misspelling.

I was supposed to read Leviticus (Really un-whoopee). I didn’t get round to it but listened to the lectures (when I wasn’t asleep). Here goes…

One, (Bible thing): men are not allowed to ‘lie’ with each other. That makes all mountain and expeditionary explorers doomed to Hell – men shared tents. (And slept, lying down next to each other.) You want to take this to court? Sorry, Hillary, Scott and Amundsen – all of you – you are destined for Hell (by idiot rules).

Hey, who are you who think ‘lie with’ implies ‘sex’? get a grip on reality. Try a modern court with this nonsense – go on – try it.

(Note: what is wrong with sex?)

Going to rant now (um … again). So God is told, “Scott lay down with Oates in the same shelter”.

(God) “Really? Send them to Hell!”

The next pair of newly-deceased are discussed, “These two men had homosexual sex.”

(God) “Were they lying down?”

No: standing.”

(God) “So? They go to heaven – it’s obvious. Read the rule book and stop bugging me.”

Rant over – another starting… There are atheists, one Christian, two Muslims and … I think one Hindu or Buddhist in this team.

Tell me – misters who know it all – and wrote all that Old Testament stuff … where are your crampons, shaking muscles and gasping breath in thin air? Sit in your comfy chairs and pass judgement – if you dare.

Male and female rescuers can climb and search for 8-16 hours a day. Rescue often means a night’s sleep among the pinnacles and more exhaustion in the morning – and then the cutting of bodies from snow (if you are too late to actually rescue anyone) – and smashing bits of casualties out of verglas. We are late so often: too late to save lives.

My degree was … will never be finished. Anyway, it was inevitable that the college would kick me out. They were about to do it just for my statement that prayer is not something you say in church – but something you do for someone else – like mountain rescue, soup kitchens for the poor, helping people – not just promising that you’re going to. Just saying thank you can be as much as the elderly and sick can achieve: it’s still an act of appreciation or kindness. That’s real praying. Nuts to kneeling in church when you could actually doing something good.

Sometimes good is only something you do to help yourself – and that can be the hardest.

See? I know stuff.

I’m going to Hell – despite these desperate missions to save lives or find pieces of people their loved-ones can bury.

I’m wearing a top made of nylon stitching, sheep’s wool, plastic toggles and leather – oh, and Kevlar bits. (Leviticus – I’m going to Hell for wearing tops made of mixed materials). My legs are covered in much the same stuff – but you didn’t see that as a problem. Maybe you’ll let my legs go to Heaven.

Yes, you, Leviticus, come and get me if you can. You are way out of this reality – and out of your depth. These mountains used to be seabed. The rocks are dissolved by acid rain now. We breathe the result. What if … what if you came to damn me but inhaled a single atom of a fossilised ammonite? You’d go to Hell, or is there a finite number of atoms you can consume from an invertebrate (but you forgot to put that in your rules)? I have prawns in my sandwiches – so? Tell my why it is an automatic damnation to eat them.

You know – there is this thing called ‘The New Testament’. Look it up. It’s OK to accept and forgive (and just care) – and fight the hell through ice to rescue people – deal with it.

Yes, this team (some of whom are volunteers on lifeboats as well as climbing up these merciless crags to save people): we kick arse. You? I don’t see you here.

There is no waiting list for heroes. Feel free to join up.

Oh, – and why is it possible for women to ‘lie together’ and still commit no sin?

Tjana is snoring beside me. Tasmin is lying here and helping me type this. She’s just back in the tent after checking our belays.

The weather blasts the tent flat every other minute.

It’s too severe out there. We had to stop climbing.

So, this rescue will probably go wrong. Tjana, Tasmin and I will be curled into our sleeping bags overnight. Side-by-side – to try and survive. Ozzie, Anwar and Sean are in their tent. I’ll bet they’re all lying down, side-by-side, shivering, trying to get through this storm too.

Such chains you wrap around people with your dictatorial dogmas. You risk ridicule or even hatred. Try and damn us – Leviticus and other confused people – we have ice-axes and we are not afraid to use them to free souls as frozen as yours (if only we could).

That’s the whole point! Like Kate Bush said ‘I hated you – I loved you too’.



©Gary Bonn. 2016

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