We reach the cool shade of the gully and scramble to the top where the world drops steeply away on both sides. The wind whistles through this gap in the mountains, a window to another world. Everybody is quiet and still for a moment, lost in our own thoughts, admiring the view, composing ourselves for the climb ahead.
We are happier once we start climbing, anchoring ourselves onto the rock face, following crack lines and features ever upwards, sky above us, air beneath our feet. We climb up into the sunshine, the rock already warm, as the morning shade has drifted away, waiting to return late in the day.
Time slows down, then jumps ahead in leaps and bounds. It is erratic, it is fickle, it cannot be trusted.
Movement is at times almost effortless, natural, but still allowing no space for the mind to wander in our meditative state. Only when our partner is climbing is there time to think and look around.
We reach the top before we know it, the world stretching out beneath us in every direction. Distant snowy mountains lie on the horizon. Another pair of climbers is silhouetted against the sky on the summit next to ours. We soak up the views, shiver in the cool air, listen to the silence all around.
Time to descend, if we’re going to make it back before dark, slowly at first, until we reach the first abseil – just two rope lengths to the top of the gully where it all began. This time it feels different, less intimidating, our bodies and minds attuned to the equilibrium of the mountains.