Tuesday, February 25, 2014


from the last belay on "stella"
The large jet-black raven sat on the thin post just being. The tiny finch fluttered in the dwarf pine with its needles glistening with snow melt in the warm winter sun. "Look at my little friend!", my relaxed and happy wife said. She had found the perfect spot in the sun for a break to rest, read and have a snack while I did another lap on the Untersberg.

Skiing powder through the trees must approximate what a bird feels as they swoop and cut through the air picking their line between the tall evergreens.  What about the startling, "Swoosh" as a bird zooms by your hanging belay in a mist enshrouded rock wall?

Of course birds, and particularly ravens, can be quite mischievous. Like any lively character, they can be rascals but they never mean any harm.  But they know what's inside that Powerbar wrapper.

The French say that the black birds circling the peaks represent the souls of all the mountaineers, skiers, climbers, etc., that have not returned. This could be. I like to think of the birds differently.

"Hey, Dad! What do you want for your birthday?" us kids would ask. "I want a bird I can walk on a leash", he'd always reply. His joke meant that he was telling us he didn't really need or want anything. He had his wife and his healthy kids. What more do you really need anyway?

My Dad has now moved on and is not with us. It's been a few years now.  When I am in the mountains and see a bird, I seem to always think of him.

The one female starling I watched feeding her young from the last belay of "Stella Artice" in Cogne. A perfect climb, in perfect weather, in the perfect location. The bird that flew overhead as I made the approach to solo something on Mont Blanc du Tacul. A good omen. The little bird that is entertaining the love of my life as she sits contently in the sun. The bird dancing on the thermals, darting in and out of the swirling mist as my partner and I hope the weather holds for the next three pitches above. It will.

I think of birds as embodying the spirit of my father, He is smiling down, watching out for me and saying, " I don't need a leash now!".

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