HEAVEN HAS ALWAYS been hell to get to. I stagger to the top of the pool-table-size summit of the Grand Teton at four o’clock. It’s a glorious afternoon up here, sunny, with just a scrap of wind. Zahan Billimoria, one of our group’s two guides, points north, where on the clearest days you can see Old Faithful’s hourly ejaculation. Battleship clouds drag their shadows over Jackson Hole and the investment bankers cow-punching on holiday. We’re at 13,770 feet, the literal high point of the Grand Traverse, a classic 13.5-mile hardman’s scamper atop the crown of Grand Teton National Park.
I want badly to appreciate this.
Instead, I’m shattered, so gutted I wave off the views and just lie back and stare into the troposphere, mouth O-ing like a goldfish on the carpet. Halfway through our three-day climb, I’m physically spanked, mentally drooling, sunburnt, dehydrated—and thanks to what the doctors think might be Lyme disease, my veins are coursing with wicked antibiotics that produce sundry and dubious side effects, a fact I’ve kept secret from the guides for fear they’d sideline me. Today alone we’ve climbed for 10 hours above 12,000 feet. It’s seven more hours before we reach the next camp.
Plus we’re nearly out of food. To shave weight, we’ve cached provisions at the lower saddle, 2,200 feet below. We’re bonking.
On our descent, one of my fellow climbers, Shannon, spies something. He crouches and picks a brown energy globule out of the dirt—a little turd of a thing some previous climber has dropped. Shannon dusts it off and turns it in his hands, considering.
“You think I should eat this?”
“I’m eatin’ it,” he declares, popping the turd into his mouth.