15 Aug 2012

Super Macho and Just a Little Bit Gay: The Secret Lives of Mountain Climbers

Huaraz, Peru is a mountaineers paradise. The town is engulfed from all sides by different mountain ranges. Endless trekking, bouldering, mountain climbing, and summiting are among some of the regions attractions. While you're apt to find the handful of backpackers floating from place to place like most spots in Latin America, it's more common to encounter Peruvians and foreigners alike for whom Huaraz is the final and only destination. Here they'll set up camp for months during the Mountain Summer (which is actually the opposite of the rest of the Southern Hemisphere or the same as northern hemisphere summer), using Huaraz as a base for weeks of trekking and mountain climbing.

Mountaineers are most likely male, between the ages of 25 and 40 and travel in tight-knit groups of two or three. Theirs is an intense form of brotherhood. As they brave off into the mountains they encounter life and death experiences on every excursion. They wake up at three in the morning to reach the summit in time to see the sunrise. Sometimes they climb and trek for twenty five hours without stopping, often along the sheer icy walls of a glacier. They live with a kind of hard-ass intensity that one rarely seen in regular humans. And at the end of the day, most will admit they are just a little bit gay.

One mountain man recounts camping with his friend high up on a snowy ridge with temperatures far below zero. "I'm cold" his friend whimpers from the sleeping bag next to him. After a few more pleading insistences, the two end up spooning the whole night long. "What was the alternative" mountain man ponders, "I can't lie beside my brother and let him freeze."


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