A Frozen Apron

“Leave your packs here,” shouts Celîl into the wind.

“Here” happens to be an apron of ice immediately below Ağrı’s horned summit.  We are standing on the apron, two thousand feet higher than the tallest peak in the continental United States.

“We’ll pick them up on the way down!”

An apron of ice.

I am thunderstruck by what I see. The roof of Turkey is flat? After living and sleeping in a vertical world for days, we find ourselves surrounded by a broad horizontal surface. It is larger than a couple of football fields.

The ice under my crampons is flat. And frozen. And so am I.

I fret over losing fingers. It is probably irrational, but I keep thinking about how bad a mandolin player I am with ten fingers. I have none to give.

The thick wool gloves that cover my hands are without windproof covers. It is a stupid mistake, I realize. The wind is fierce. It cuts through knit, tugs at flaps, and claws for skin. I feel like I am standing in the back of a pickup racing down the highway.

View back to "Little Ararat."

I manage to free myself of my pack and drop it to the hard crust. I bang my hands together repeatedly. I want them to hurt again.

Our path has brought us from the Şeyhli Marsh to Çevirme, from Low Camp to High Camp, and now from dark to dawn and to this frozen apron on Turkey’s roof. We have climbed through the hours on this side of midnight, but are not there yet. Still, we are close. For the first time, the summit knob is clearly in view. The westernmost horn of Ağrı is not more than 300 feet above us. At our speed, though, it may take an hour to cover that distance.

Our route up Ağrı Dağı.

Tanner helps me retrieve my water bottle. I take a long drink. Then I tell him I’m not taking my camera any farther. “It’s too heavy.”

I have a full sized 35 mm Nikon with a wide angle lens in a holster bag. That camera has faithfully gone with me from one end of the Middle East to the other. However, at this elevation, it is a concrete block. I pull the drawstrings to close my pack, camera bag inside.

“No.” Tanner argues.  “I’ll take it.”

I object again, but he takes it anyway. “You’ve carried it this far. My turn.” There is no shoulder strap, so he grips it in his gloved hand. Later, I see him carrying it in his teeth.

“That kid . . . ”

He also has the GoPro. He pauses here and there to shoot.

We leave our backpacks in a cluster on the ice. Except Celîl. He keeps his. The summit is now directly overhead. The clouds fly over and between us.