Category: climbing

Holy Cross, 5:56 a.m.

perfect representation— the map is not the territory— ceci n’est pas une pipe— the structure is too rich to be captured. I am daydreaming. The world is subject only to approximation, I think. We have expanded the action in a Taylor series to fourth order, we have (supposedly) renormalized it, we have expanded the fourth-order term to second-order in the fluctuations (I think). You cannot solve it exactly, you see, because the complexity of an exact solution scales exponentially, is of order 21023, so we expand, and we drop, and we expand, and we drop. In the end the only test of a solution is reality. There are existence theorems and existent objects. Can you justify this approximation? “It is a good question.” In my mind I am skiing. I write the phrase, now becoming a mantra, that Petros Papachristos used for Hardy in the book I read a month ago, only modified to make it scan. I write out three lines of possible accents, accompanying my favorite by a code with no particular purpose:

calculátion of the shópping list varíety (2!12!21!2) ..–…–…–.,.
cálculation of the shópping list varie(ty)
cálculátion óf the shópping líst varíety

I amuse myself by allowing my right hand to write, to take notes independently of conscious thought, to transport myself to Siberia Bowl while still ostensibly deriving or producing some permanent record of the location of my body. I have these notes still:

I can transform this to an integral D-D-K-of-PI-2-2-D. E THE I K DOT X we have done this already a number of times the following result S of δelta φ sum over k rho 2 sum over gradient grad2 gives me k2 modulus of della phi One + kδφ perp dot δφ perp the reality of φ in real space what remains is 2|φ| value of r

I am proud of my little piece of found poetry and wonder briefly if it might help me on the exam. Not every day is like this, I should say for the benefit of any classmates or teachers who may be reading this, but every so often it happens.

“An ugly subject.” There ought to be a 4, 1 here, 1, 4, 6, 4, 1, there is nothing like number theory or even the solution of a partial differential equation [I remember not wanting to write “equation,” finding éven the solútion of a pártial differéntial too beautiful to ruin, but I do it anyway]– the world is subject only to approximation– the structure is too rich to be captured. A photograph of the canyon cannot do it justice– a photograph of Holy Cross (or any other mountain, really) is not holy– just a picture– Holy Cross– we are finally doing it– on the way up I am never quite as happy as when I am in the woods, In the Wuides, the telephone-pole trees, sleeping early, the alpenglow at five a.m.– what was it Tom called a phone camera? A potato.

And here the timeline diverges:

I am awake. I do not know how long I have been awake, if I have even slept. It has stopped raining, and since I do not remember a moment that it stopped I assume I must have slept at some point. I am grappling with the ancient struggle: it is warm in here: do I have to urinate badly enough to get out of the tent? What time is it? How cold is it outside? While I have slept, I have not slept enough, but will remaining here allow me even a minute more of sleep? There is no hot coffee to be made, but I have my Double Shot cans (I have to believe these were designed for hikers), a pack of 27’s, and a Clif Bar all encouraging me to begin the day. I suppose it is light out enough, and it is becoming clear that I do indeed have to urinate badly enough.

I unzip the tent, slip on my sandals (“camp shoes”) and go pee off the side of the 50-foot cliff not far from Dylan’s and my site. We chose a good site. We are on top of a large, flat rock, a hundred feet or so above the river, a quick walk to fill up our bottles before we leave for the climb today. We are about a hundred yards’ walk from the main trail and at least two hundred from the next nearest campsite; I am not even sure how we would get there from here, if there is a direct route not blocked by a crevasse… I would expect to be able to see their tent (we know it is there) from my toilet spot, but I cannot.

There is nothing quite like the cold of morning in the woods. It is earlier than you wake up elsewhere, because your mattress is the earth. It is purifying and perfectly, absolutely silent. I take a coffee, light a cigarette and sit by the fire pit, which we were unable to use last night because of the rain. Dylan said to wake him up at six. It is not six yet. I meditate, smelling the wet moss. I look up to Holy Cross, our goal of the day, and see something I have never seen before. Alpenglow: the direct, sharp rays of sunlight at the summit that, because of the Earth’s curvature, have not yet reached us, nearly a mile below. While we slowly, softly rise, a gradual diffuse lightening of the atmosphere, up above they could already get sunburn. There is nothing like it, there is no picture that does it properly: when you see it— no, that is not right, when I see it I am standing face to face with God for the second or perhaps third time in my life. While I sometimes use that word for hyperbolic effect, I mean it here as literally as it is possible for me to mean such a thing.

You could write an equation for alpenglow, you could write any number of equations for the mountains, and none of them would be right, none of them could be right, no hypothetical equation could possibly have what it takes to count as being right. I take a picture on my cell phone, knowing, of course, that this is, if anything, even less right. Why do we take pictures, why do we write? To remember what it was like to be me, yes, I know, I use that line too much.

I wake Dylan. Izzit— he mumbles. No, I say, it’s not quite six, but you have to see this. Okay, he tells me, and goes back to sleep for another half hour. It’s okay. I am here. I sit back on my rock and do not go anywhere for some time. Eventually the day reaches us. We have a mountain to climb.

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