Ross Taylor – Titan Piton
Moss falls in my eyes. I slide my taped hands further up the crack. More moss crumbles and falls, swirling in the breeze. The east face of Geryon falls away beneath me for 200m. Thirty metres below my brother, moss-dusted face clad in sunglasses, is a blur staring up, feeding double ropes in and out, in and out.
I spot the piton late, buried deep in the crack above my hands. I pull into a shallow stance. Its squat, dull head still gleams, its stainless surface the only thing not coated by moss. I thread a finger through the hole drilled in its head and tug. Loosened by the passing of time – the freeze and thaw of 44 winters, 44 mornings embracing the slow arc of the sun through the sky – it slowly wiggles out.
Time collapses. I imagine Roland smashing this piton deep into the crack. He would have stood on this stance, hammer flashing in the late evening light. And my father would have followed some time later, probably in the dark – for they were benighted at the top of the Foresight, a single sleeping bag between them. I imagine my father beating at this piton, trying to remove it, fumbling with tired hands, cursing when he skinned his knuckles and then, eventually, leaving it behind.
Later that day we reach the top of the Foresight ourselves, 300m of dolerite below us. Lachy leads the last pitch, his shouts ringing through the blue sky, elated and relieved. In the golden light of the setting sun, he holds out the piton for the camera. Lachy is almost the spit of my father, and for a moment it feels as if I am sharing the summit with a younger model dad.
The piton is merely a lump of steel, bent into shape on a rig by Roland, stamped with his initials, ‘RP’, but it’s now a talisman, a link to the past, to our history and our shared adventure.