The mountaineer

a daily ascent

Felix Broennimann via pixabay

Yesterday, I climbed K2. It was an achievement.

Today, it’s Kilimanjaro. A slightly better day. I stand at the foot of the mountain and shade my eyes. The peak is hidden from sight, but I know it’s waiting for me. I can dawdle here at base camp, but there’s no avoiding the climb. What I need is up there.

Check my equipment. Deep breath. One step after another. Other people move past me smoothly, quickly. I can’t see if they’re struggling, I’m too focussed on my own path. Head down. Keep going.

Some days I cry. I don’t want to toil, breathless, wracked with pain, sobbing with each agonising inch of progress. Despairing, wishing that things might be easier, just for today, just for once. And then I drag myself forward, upward.

It’s a Sisyphean task. It’s my task. I didn’t ask for this, but here I am.

What waits at the top?

A bed, where I seek respite from suffering.
A job, where I must go even at the cost of my soul.
Another day of life, no matter how futile.
The thing I cannot escape.

I go up the mountain every day only to descend again. What goes up, has to come down. We dwell in the foothills, not the heights.

And tomorrow?
Different, but also the same; the certainty of another mountain to scale, hoping it won’t be the Everest that will defeat me, praying I can rise to the challenge of the day. I’ll plant my flag, and then retrace my steps. Survival is the prize.


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