We Can, We Will

Celîl on summit day.

Suddenly I wake. It is 1:30 in the morning on the slopes of Ağrı Dağı. At 13,000 feet it is cold and dark. A light wind is blowing. Uraz hollers down from the mess tent a second time. It is unnecessary.

Greg flicks on his headlamp. I do the same. We look at each other, eyes wide. It is “summit day.” We planned for this months ago, miles ago, continents ago.

Fear and excitement push against the exhaustion of the night. Somehow I feel the mingling of all these things, but am unable to separate them. I wonder what Greg sees in my lamp-lit face?

Somewhere in my head, I can hear the voice of Tommy: “We can. We will.”

Our bright-faced sloganeer-of-positivity uttered these four words the moment we arrived on the mountain. He has incessantly repeated them ever since. Occasionally, I find encouragement in the mantra. Most of the time, though, I just want to smack him with a rock.








Tanner and Tommy at the ready.

A flurry of activity follows the wake-up call. I slip out of my bag and pull into the clothes arranged at the bottom of the tent. Greg offers me a pair of sock liners to deal with my toe blisters. He has extras. I gratefully accept these and stretch them up and over my calves that are clad in anti-microbial long underwear. I hope the science is still working. It is day four and these tights have not come off yet.

I pull on my climbing pants, shirt, cap, fleece top, and wind/rain jacket. I check my pocket for my gloves and spare batteries. Everything is where it should be. I reach for the set of loaner crampons that Uraz gave me at dinner (We could never figure out how to secure my antique ones with the lost buckle).

I examine these unfamiliar ice weapons under my lamp and wonder how to best carry them. Crampons will be necessary when we hit the glaciated cap. In the meantime, I fear I will impale myself or rip my gear. Thinking about such terrifying scenarios, I fumble and drop one. It falls, slow motion-like, and lands on my air mattress, teeth down. There is a burst followed by a long hissssing sound. I ride the deflation earthward until my knees meet the rocks. Greg looks over at me in surprise. He screws up an “oops” face and freezes for a moment. Then we both burst into laughter. There is no other possible response. The tension is broken (along with my new therm-a-rest).

“That’s going to make the rest of the trip a lot of fun,” I offer, brilliantly.

I check my pack one last time, and set it outside the zippered door. I pull on my blister-inflicting boots and head up to the mess.

The tent is softly illuminated. Inside, Mustafa has prepared a breakfast (not that anyone is particularly hungry). He has also prepared snack bags for each of us. Inside the bags are an assortment of candies, biscuits, and a hunk of jerky from some unidentified beast.

As the others make their way up to the mess, I fill my two wide-mouthed water bottles. Hot water and tea are available for those with thermoses.

Greg cautious us to pack our fluid carefully so it won’t freeze in route.

Previously, Greg had a bad experience on Kili and ended up sharing water with a porter. We were warned in advance not to bring camelbak bladder bags, the kind that slip into an inner backpack pocket. While the bladder is kept warm by radiant body heat, the delivery system of drinking tube and mouthpiece can freeze under extreme conditions.

I slide each of my water bottles into a wool sock and then into the side pockets on my pack. They are accessible. I will slip them under my coat if necessary.

All the team assembles, except Alcan. He is unseen, and reportedly, unwell.

Celîl strides into the tent.

“Ready?” he asks.

“Lit’s gooo.” He shoulders his pack, turns on his headlamp, and steps into the night. We follow, one by one.