Companions in Misery

A cold mountain, a mismatched pair, and a meditation on the strange chemistry of partnership

Nov 1, 2000
Outside Magazine


WE HADN'T BEEN ON THE mountain 24 hours and it was clear we were incompatible.

Twight bawled for a halt. I peered over my shoulder. He had slumped onto his sled and was glowering at me. I undid my waist belt and slid off my pack, unhooked myself from the sled, unclipped my harness from the rope, unclipped the rope from the ascenders, unsnapped both feet from my skis, and walked back down the glacier. I stopped whistling, wiped the grin off my face. Already I knew my piping of old rock songs was driving him crazy, my grin an affront.

"I hate, hate, hate this!" Twight was vitriolic. Not for the first time, he cursed our "stupidly heavy" sleds and packs and his blisters and our fast pace.

I walked away.

Another team of mountaineers had stopped ahead of us on the trail. They were playing football with a bag of food, stumbling hilariously in their huge boots in the wet snow. I made an interception, tripped, and fell face-first, using my head like a shovel. Hoots of laughter went up. Lifting my snow-caked self, I glanced back at Twight. He was still sitting on his sled, hunched and brooding, like a grim statue.

I turned and surveyed the desert of snow. Something in the soft dunes of the glacier looked familiar and I realized I had been here, precisely here, before. Two decades ago to the day, in fact.

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