Between chattering teeth, Duncan and I agreed that at first light we would start to descend. But that didn’t happen. At sunrise, we were too rigid to move. Like birds frozen to a wire, we had to wait for the sun to warm us up before we could actually start rappelling.
By the time we reached camp, we’d been moving–if you count trembling violently–for 33 hours. The wind had flattened our tent. We crawled inside a thicket of krummholz, downed some single malt, buried ourselves in our bags, and slept like stones.
The next morning, we walked all the way out and drove all the way home. I was as whipped as if I’d just returned from Nanga Parbat. Our combined ages exceeded 100 years, so we christened the route No Climb For Old Men. Total travel cost: $50 in gas. Total expedition time: four days.
They say the greatest asset of a good mountaineer is a bad memory. And it didn’t take long to forget about that bivy. Not after I spied a few more unclimbed walls, patiently waiting with the promise of punishment and triumph.
Don’t let the glitzy glamour of the exotic blind you to what lies in your own backyard. Study the topos, get off the trail, use your imagination. Adventure is where you find it. And don’t look for me in Nepal this summer–I’ll be in some forgotten corner of Wyoming.
Mark Jenkins’s latest book, A Man’s Life: Dispatches From Dangerous Places, won the Best Adventure Travel Book award at the 2008 Banff Book Festival.