Grays Peak, Colorado

August 7, 1982

I told my older brother Chris I wanted to do a summit bivy.

Detecting more enthusiasm than good sense in his little brother, he asked, “You want to sleep on top of the mountain?”

“It’d be cool,” I said.

“Cool is an understatement,” Chris replied. “But if that’s what you’re up for, then I know a fourteener we can try.” I would fly to Colorado, where he lived, for the climb.

Born and raised in Michigan, I was still a flatlander, and I loved alpine vocabulary: belay, carabiner, cirque, crevasse. The words were either French or slang, and either way I loved them. Fourteener: a mountain over fourteen thousand feet. The height at which the air is thin enough to make walking difficult, and storms roll in without warning, like giant waves across the sky. It could snow in the middle of a summer afternoon. To reach a mountain summit was to bag it, and the Colorado peak-baggers lived for fourteeners.

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