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The first time I held a grown man was on the South Face of Cerro Poincenot, in Argentine Patagonia.
It was January 2007, and my climbing partner, Dave Sharratt, and I had just endured five consecutive weeks of bad weather and soggy bouldering while waiting for a weather window to go alpine climbing. At the first promising forecast, we shot up the Torre Valley for a new route amid Poincenot’s vast, vertical wilderness of big walls. In our eagerness to make tracks, we chose to leave all bivy gear behind. Light and fast. Our sole piece of extra gear was one of those emergency space blankets you buy at an army surplus store.
Sunset found us hanging in our harnesses, two thirds of the way up the granite needle. I led the last pitch by headlamp, which deposited me, miraculously, on a small ledge the size of a park bench. It was the first horizontal place we’d seen in the last 1,000 feet of climbing, and it would have to do.
We deployed the space blanket, which immediately shred to tinsel against the coarse Patagonian stone. Then my butt cheeks started to go numb. It was 15 degrees. I looked at my watch: twenty minutes had passed.
I reached for Dave, wrapping my hands around him in an awkward bear hug. Simultaneously and somewhat instinctively, I also kicked my knees over his, school-girl style. We immediately felt warmer.