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Climb ©

Jim McRobert
Edinburgh, Scotland
2004

at mists of dawn we set to climb - thro' jewelled grass and sweet bruised thyme
among the slabs of fallen rock - from cliffs on high in time forgot
racing on with heaving breath - sweating streaks, no time for rest
amid its base we mull and brew - study route, take in the view

a trail of breeze in jetstream cloud - a patchwork quilt of greens and brown
below us ants, in truck or car - the rising sun now clear and high
unpack each sack of rope and gear - tensions loose in secret fear
clip on crabs and brothers light - into harness neat and tight

belt in loop then turn it back - on with helmet buckle strap
shake the rope to see it run - hitch on knot to each in turn
Gordon there will take the lead - while I stand and need to heed
his route to scale by foot and hand - the way on cliff we both had planned

with left foot neat and into crack - fingers feel for groove face mark
right leg stretch then heel on ledge - hand now grips in tightened wedge
spider like on rock face wall - legs askew then standing tall
fingers hunt by tip for hole - stretch and stretch to seek their goal

belayed set then distant call - taken strain I strive to foll-ow
on hidden steps from place to place - gathering secrets as I trace
pitch by pitch ever on - fingers numbed, rubbed and gone
lead to lead stretch ever up - a moments fear a chance of luck

ice like fangs now greet our eye - by crampon feet we kick and try
swing axe swing and hammer blow - onwards upwards steady, slow
piton, screw, or trusting friend - crabbed and locked, secured rope end
guided on by patient hands - across the face of layered bands

howling wind and spindrift blows - sugared ice and powder snows
swirling windspouts, daggered pain - needled hail by demon rain
goggled eyes all blue or pink - peer thro' sheets of fiery zinc
breath of frost adhered to beard - crumpled step each kick is feared

rope now stiff all kink and bend - upwards steady never end
up thro' chimney, legs a-splay - dangled axe all hoar and grey
ten foot, nine foot, then outcrop - a final heave to bridge the top
in blast and stagger hug and grin - screaming banshees howling wind

descend, descend, rappel as quick - with bated breath controlled and slick
compass poised in sure direction - a moments lack a sick infection
giddy grinning full of hope - stumbling shuffling silly dope
find a lee to check the mark - wanderlust whiteout stark

fear returns in stomach screw - Indian-file lead and queue
balling snow on easing slope - inch by inch in downward grope
frozen cheeks in Viking face - blocks of snow in rippled race
crack and slide in fearsome roll - with eddied rush to feed its soul

crampons off stacked on sack - rope in loops bent and cracked
holstered both hammer, axe - onward now on homeward tracks
back to pub forgotten pain - slaked our need for it again
fingers toes nipped survive - atop the climb supreme alive.


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