The Joy of Seeing New Mountains
Words and photos courtesy Graham Zimmerman
Two of my greatest joys in life are hearing new music and seeing new mountains.
I see strong parallels between the two; the first listen into the structure and hooks of a cut, giving them that first chance to catch your ear and the first view of a face, the initial trepidations and inspiration while seeking a line of safe passage.
Sitting at my computer, completing final preparations for this seasons migration north to the mountains of Alaska I received an email that Radiohead had released a new track ‘Burn the Witch ‘. Stepping away from my computer I put on my head phones and pressed play.
Orchestral strings built tension while deep synthetic sounds droned in the background. Then Yorke’s voice dropped in confirming it was in fact Radiohead. For 4 minutes I listened, pulled away from the work and planning into a dark high fidelity world of beauty and creativity. Then it ended and I was back at home in Bend, OR finalizing work and preparing to leave.
Five days later the plane swooped into the Canyon Creek Glacier. My partner Chris and I caught our first glimpse of our trips objective, the West face of Celeno Peak. With my eyes glued to the window I watched as it simultaneously towered above and fell below us. My stomach turned as I thought about clinging it’s ridges and buttresses, being a mere spec on it’s 6,000’ of relief.
Later, with basecamp partially situated we stood staring once again, now at four kilometers distant it was still dominating our attention as we scanned upwards along our proposed route. On paper it had seemed so reasonable, now from the glacier it looked incredibly challenging.
We studied it until we felt sure that we could move through the terrain free of most objective hazard. We talked, we watched and eventually we climbed.
On May 15th, we stood on top of Celeno in the darkness of the early morning. Below us lay a route which I will never forget. It had been defined by deep rhythms of fear and exhaustion but also tinkering beauty and even the occasion dash of joy.
As the sun rose, I looked out upon new horizons, unfamiliar mountains as far as the eye could see. Hulking shapes on the skyline, potential for new adventures in wild unknown areas. Looking down at basecamp I remembered that we were only halfway home and I refocused my attention on the descent as we started to head downwards.
Back in Bend, OR, home, I downloaded the entirety of new Radiohead album and sat in the sunshine of the backyard as I let it wash over me. The dramatic nature of the cuts feeling perfectly juxtaposed against the rays of sunshine and the satisfaction of having opened a route in beautiful mountains.
From May 12th to 15th Graham Zimmerman and Chris Wright made the second ascent of Celeno Peak (13,395') via a new route, The West Face Direct (M6 5.10X A2+ 95 degrees, 6,000’).
Huge thanks to Julbo for supporting the trip.