Friday, May 20, 2011

The Shelf from Carter

The view here on the shelf is amazing: snow-capped peaks in a dizzy-making, spiky-looking carpet below the horizon. It took six hours to hike up here, then another thirty minutes to scrape the shelf into the snow just below the peak. It's not that easy to dig out and then flatten a spot in the snow using just an ice axe, so you get sweaty with the effort. If the light lasts long enough and you've done this before, you put in an extra five to 10 minutes scraping a second shelf where you can stow your gear and set up your kitchen. Otherwise everything gets stashed at your feet, where you are sure to tangle yourself up in it during the night as you unconsciously shrink away from the edge of the shelf. You know, even in your sleep, that rolling the wrong way can take you over the edge and send you on a terrifying sleigh ride down the glacier in your slick-surfaced nylon-coated sleeping bag that would probably slide faster than a wet otter down a mud bank. And now, just thinking about it, you're all sweaty again. Time to stick the ice axe into a picket on the edge and lie down for a tense night's sleep. Dawn will be spectacular.

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