My first Himalayan expedition, precipitated by Mal Duff not grasping the metaphorical nature of poetry, and thinking I actually could climb, was to the Mustagh Tower. Like war, or shooting a film, a lot of Himalayan climbing involves sitting around waiting. I loved those days when the weather was too bad higher in the mountain to climb that day.

Interlude on Mustagh Tower


In these high places we are melting out
of all that made us rigid; our ice-screws
hang loose on the fixed ropes to the Col.
Monday in the Himalaya, the clouds are down,
our objective is somewhere, but obscured –
let it soar without us for a day!
We lounge in thermals on the glacier,
brewing and ‘shooting the breeze’, that improbable
project of conversation among the living.
Laughter rings across the ice. Why not?
None of us will die today – that’s immortality
you can draw on in a cigarette,
harsh and sweet, the way we like it.
Steam rises from the billy, Sandy pours.
It is true high, worked for, that we pass
hand to hand between us with our brews.
Men on ice, going nowhere and laughing
at everything we cannot see but know
is there – among the cloud, on the Col,
a hand of some sort is tightening our screws.

from This Life, This Life: New and Selected Poems 1976-2006 (Bloodaxe, 2006), © Andrew Greig, 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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