At Altitude

My boots feel like they weigh ten pounds.

I’m breathing hard, but it still feels like I’m suffocating.

Numb fatigue soaks through me as though I am a teabag, limp and dripping.

I look up and watch the column snake their way up and up.

Always up.

The peak is sometimes visible through the mists.

I look back down at my boots.

The toes are scuffed from the rough stone.

My stomach feels like it’s full of hot liquid.

My mouth is open as I struggle to breathe.

Up and up.

All my reasons for doing this seem so trivial.

The thoughts that run through my head are fragments.

A cereal commercial jingle from when I was a kid, over and over like a tape loop.

My mother in the nursing home, looking up as I came in and asking the nurse who I was.

I look down at my boots.

Up and up.

What Pegman Saw: Kilimanjaro




Add Yours
  1. Joy Pixley

    I like how the physical fatigue illustrates the emotional strain. It feels very true: I imagine that most people face this moment of doubt at the low point of some incredibly difficult undertaking, and wonder if their reasons for doing it are strong enough to push them to the end.

  2. Alicia Jamtaas

    I look back down at my boots.

    The toes are scuffed from the rough stone. This says so much. I do some rigorous hiking every now and again, and I can tell when I’m running out of steam by the scuff marks on the toes of my boots. Great story for “sleep walking!”

  3. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    I watched my husband climb this mountain for seven years until his mom passed away in January. Sometimes the best stories come when one is uninspired. Well done.



  4. Lynn Love

    As others have said, if this is what you do when you’re feeling uninspired… Great storytelling, very visceral. I feel exhausted with your narrator!

  5. pennygadd51

    I like the way the staccato sentences conjure up the man’s plodding feet. I also liked the introduction of the man’s mother. That’s not being gimmicky, it’s showing good technique!

  6. Cara Hartley

    I read a book last year written by an elderly psychologist who had climbed numerous peaks during his life, including Kilimanjaro. His book discussed not only the beauty and the physical challenges but the reasons why people see the need to challenge themselves in this way. I have also cared for people with dementia in a professional capacity as well as watching people I cared about on a personal level succumb to it. I appreciated the way your piece compared and contrasted the two challenges.
    ~Cie from Team Netherworld~

Don't just stand there.