These were the kind of men who loved the cold. I can hear their laughter at the prospect of a lead climb up a jagged tumble of ice. I remember how they opened their arms to feel the invisible, buffeting gusts, daring the force of it to push them aside. I can see the curl of their smiles, hear the chuckle and the deep breath of a morning over coffee, preparing for a snowy push towards the peak. Their hands set anchors quick and sure, handled rope with precision, not teaching as I understood teaching: wordless, modest, distant.
I scratched some lesson from it, struggled to match their easy calm, and shivered as the keen wind bit into the skin of my neck. I watched their knowing hands, read in their laughter the message to persist, but somehow the aching cold found a way in, and I felt my stubborn resolve give way to the desire to return to something I knew better than this wild, lonely place. I learned, but slowly, wrangled with the new; I listened with all my senses, and in that silence sensed that they would not wait for me.