22 August 2020

#52writing cards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 12

A version of this prompt appears on the Big Gay Writing Map illustrated by James Daw.


When we got to the top of Mount Snowdon, one of the first things I noticed in my group was how everyone had snow and ice on their eyelashes. We had climbed the mountain in February as part of the Outdoor Pursuits course and I was the worst climber of the group. I had very bad anemia at the time and was climbing with already low oxygen in my body, plus I was weaker than everyone, plus I did not have the right kind of footwear for mountaineering on. The boots themselves were inflexible and added extra weight around my ankles. 

I was ashamed at how terrible I was at outdoor activity, but I loved being in nature. I don't think my group made me feel guilty about my lack of physical ability; I did that fair enough on my own. I was not someone who played sports. I was not someone who enjoyed working out or doing anything physical, but here I was, making myself climb the highest mountain in Wales at 3,560 ft. 

We climbed the mountain in the snow. We were suited up, rucksacks on, in freezing weather. Sometimes it was hard to see. Sometimes the snow came down while we were climbing. 

I remember slipping and falling on ice many times. At one point I was so close to the summit point and I had slipped on the ice and accidentally yelled something like a "SHIT!" or "DAMMIT!" as I landed on my butt, which is something I would never really say in what was essentially a classroom environment, despite being out in the middle of nature. I was cold, I was frustrated,  I was embarrassed, I was thirsty because I had lost my water bottle down the side of the mountain, I had no appetite, and I just wanted to get to the top. I felt like there were so many obstacles in my way, and most of them came from me.

When I got to the top with my climbing group, I think there were maybe four or five of us (this was sixteen years ago or so), we posed around the summit marker, trying to smile in what seemed like a whiteout. 

The photograph of us is in an album back in America. The background of the photo is all white. You cannot tell we are standing on the top of the mountain. We're just in front of a screen of snow. We're squinting, not just from smiling, but from the ice that has formed on our eyelashes. 

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

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