It is another icy, wind-scoured October night. The milky peaks are so close you could touch them.
A clear bright moon sails across the deep, wind-tossed, star-filled sky.
Two thousand feet below, Yosemite is ablaze with a handful of twinkling diamonds clutched from
the heavens and scattered across the floor of the Valley, constellations familiar from uncounted
bivouacs: The Curry Village, The Lodge, Housekeeping, The Upper Pines.....
Stand, with your toes hanging over the void in this moonlight and wind, with tourist-like trust in
the two-inch pipe railing at the brink of Yosemite Point. Walk west along the railing -- along the
rim of the Valley under the bright sky -- to where the railing ends, the abyss expands and the
cliff retreats into the night; where rising from this dark engulfment is a single, silver-grey
and black apparition, a magical needle of moonlit stone so close, so unreachable, so remarkable
in its intense isolation as to be a vision from beyond the Valley of Dreams.
If you listen here this evening, listen to the silence beyond the wind whistling through the
waxy manzanita leaves and ponderosa pine branches, listen with your mind, you will hear
dimly at first, then more clearly through the night breeze, echoes from the past: Whispers and
jingling of ghostly voices and phantom carabiners; reverberating shouts of triumph
like bright, distant flashes of sunlight on the sea; Laughter like moonlight on a brook; The chill
sobbing of empty grief like a deep cold pool in the darkness.
Listen and you will hear a multitude of voices this moonlit night: Richard Leonard, John
Salathe, Anton Nelson, Allen Steck..... Irving Smith.... You will hear their voices echoing off
these high peaks; They who were here before you: Pioneers and prophets, who struggled,
triumphed, suffered, and sometimes died climbing this tower of stone: Theirs and other voices
blending together in a chorus in the starlit sky.
It is the late night side of dawn. You shiver deeper into the pile jacket and turn back from
this vision down a rough gravel trail, across polished moonswept granite slabs
toward a campfire now burned to embers, toward a few hours sleep. In the morning, in the
startling sunlight of a new day, you will add your voice to theirs-- in the joy of triumph, the
disappointment of defeat, or the grief of tragedy. Tomorrow night, as you stumble, exhausted,
filthy, and sore, down a trail vague in the dark shadow of oak, your echo, too, will dance in the
moonlight of the high peaks.
Brutus of Wyde
Old Climbers' Home
24 October 1993
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