by Syd Long
Just below the summit of Diamond Peak the climber below me and I were locked into a pained synchronicity. We’d each take about three steps up the impossibly steep mountainside, deliberately placing our feet into the kicked-out steps. Then we’d lean on our poles and try to breathe through what felt like a clogged straw. It seemed very early in the race to be suffocating. Strong maddening winds whipped around us. Hearing sniffling and sensing distress behind me, I glanced back. “It’s too hard, too hard…,” bemoaned the demoralized man, tears flowing freely down his face. I really did not know how to react, mostly because I was enveloped in my own struggle.