Saturday, July 28, 2012

Climbers Old, not so old and not so young



This week I met, after several years, one of my best climbing buddies, the infamous Jim Lowther along with another friend Jim Fotheringham – the legendary British climber. While JF is a dentist by profession and all of 60 years specializing in curing snoring besides making first ascents around the globe, JL is of my age (47 – 48) and claims to be a poor farmer in the Lakes UK, never mind the fact that his peerage belongs to the Earls of Lonsdale that once upon a time were perhaps the largest landowners in UK, while as you all know I do nothing and claim to be doing nothing either and let someone prove that I do of anything worth mentioning! We had another member to this informal (over the beer glasses and huge plates of burgers) meeting all of 44 and a reborn alpinist from US, Eric, who was a champion mountain biker and took up climbing few years ago. I never thought of asking how he justifies his existence on planet earth otherwise, so his profession and occupation remains as of now a bit obscure and mysterious. Between us four we had more than 100 years of climbing and adventuring, covering all the continents and nearly every mountain ranges known to man.  

We met at a supposedly 4 star hotel in Delhi, when Delhi is reeling under heat stroke and these three had just landed back the same morning from a stupendous expedition in Zanskar. So they were super acclimatized (for whatever they felt like doing), super hungry and thirsty (for whatever lay within reach and pocket) while I was super dazed and fatigued and dehydrated and itching to get out and get back to the high Himalayan peaks.




No sooner had we taken a 4 seated table inside the coffee shop, JF announced it was too chilly and noisy indoors so let’s get outside; outside! I screamed dubiously in my mind, but he being the guest and I being the true Indian accepted his dictum wordless, moreover, JF is not to be messed with even if you are not strapped to his patient’s chair with him hovering atop your gaping mouth with one of those instruments of pleasure. So we go out and sit beneath an umbrella. And then as the drinks and food came and went started our jabbering, typically mountain jabbering that includes everything from one’s dubiousness at one’s sanity to one’s marriage, family, food and always leads to the future plans of unclimbed routes and then to all the accidents or whippers one has undergone. Then comes the display of broken bones mended indifferently or differently, stitches still raw, bruises and cuts open and red, talks of those frozen moments of fear and exhilaration, how many near death experiences one has had, how many avalanches has one been buried into, and mind you all such morbid talks delivered in full mirth and jocular temperament. Observed from afar it would seem as if we were planning our next all-expense paid holiday to Hawaii with Ms World aspirants in tow.

We had so much fun through those three hours and at the end when I headed back home, hanging like a bat from the upper rail of the metro I thought back to the meeting and pondered what had I learnt from it, if anything at all besides the super duper time we all shared. And then as I recalled the phrases we used, punching each other in our slightly bulging bellies and making fun of our receding and greying hairlines I realized that as the years passed us by and we were still behaving like teen kids that we were when we commenced our respective climbing careers we had somehow transformed within. And these are some of the things that emerged...

We no longer conquered peaks, just visited them...

We no longer talked about the true summit, but our own personal summit...

We no longer felt fearless and ready to rule the world, but we had each befriended fear and death to a degree tolerable and had learned to live with either...

We still had impossible goals and summits in our eyes, but now we had the vision to know that some of them must always remain impossible...

We no longer bragged about our climbs and laughed at horizontally inclined creatures, but we pine for the days when we can join them too...

We don’t forget about our families or friends, but we actually go shopping for them at the end of an expedition, which only adds to the excess baggage already cowering under all metal...

We don’t stink as much after an expedition, but we essentially take a shower and have the decency to shave and get a proper haircut along with generous dabbling of body deodorant, etc...

We don’t scream at everyone we meet that what an awesome climb we had just done, but we quietly tell them that we are simply enjoying life while we still have it...

We don’t eat like drought victims post expedition, but we carefully nimble through salads and other calorie-less diets...

We do lose weight in a climb, yet the bulge around the waist look ominous...

Our laughter is no longer reckless though our hearts and spirit remain so as much...

And we still said while parting; not ‘see you soon’ but ‘see you on top’...

And like we always say, old climbers are rare since most die when young and those who grow old never die they simply fall and crash out... Amen 

2 comments:

  1. very nice and simply put across .................

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  2. brings a smile on my face which can lit up a whole city! hugs S.

    hmmmmm i hope to see the bulge gone though. LOL... you have no choice my friend!

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