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We have not wings we cannot soar, but,
we have feet to scale and climb, by slow degrees,
by more and more, the cloudy summits of our time.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Longfellow expresses it well. There is something about climbing that keeps me (and many others) coming back. It has been likened to an addiction, a feverish, uncontrollable urge that possesses the very soul. This leads to a sort of madness, a "rapture of the heights," like love and other drugs.

And like love, the emotions felt at heights are hard to explain, or describe. No doubt the solitude, and paradoxically the camaraderie, have something to do with it. And, as shown in the picture, the views ain't bad either, a strange concoction of bare-bones simplicity and raw beauty. But mostly it's the feel, the intimate contact between body and earth. If you want to know what rock really feels like, hang on to it above thousands of feet of "empty air." You will experience a primal mix of fear and thrill guaranteed to make you bond with the Earth Mother.


Self-portait, Lava Tower camp at 16,000 feet, Kilimanjaro. My first experience of "climbing by slow degrees," above the clouds and into the hypobaric chamber of high altitude. The shag carpet of clouds hovers in the air off the flanks of Africa's tallest peak, tempting me to do a belly flop. I take this picture instead (above).

© Danny Kimberlin 2015