This short story is dedicated to all of my barefoot-loving kiwi friends!
It was a wet, dreary day. We’d been boulder-hopping our way up a river, with lethally slippery algae-covered rocks. We were in the Aiyagomahala valley, near the Arrigetch peaks in the Gates of the Arctic National Park, way up North in Alaska.
We were intrigued to spot some human footprints in mud by the river that looked only a few days old. We finally popped out above the alders and into friendlier open tundra fields. We climbed over a small rise and spotted a tarp in the distance. “No way, there’s a camp” I exclaimed.
It turned out to be a group of four young climbers who’d been planning their Arctic climbing expedition for over 6 months. They were here for around 25 days. So far they had mostly been hunkering, getting by on light food rations and wild blueberries. Although we didn’t know it at the time, they would only end up getting three climbing days in their entire trip. I spent the evening huddling under a tarp in the rain talking to the climbers, who were all between 18 and 27 years old and lived across three continents.
“I met a kiwi guy briefly in Patagonia,” Anina, an 18 year old climber from Argentina, mentioned.
She couldn’t remember his name.
“Average height and slim with brown hair?” I ask.
“Maybe,” Anina said, laughing. I’d just described every second climber.
“I don’t know exactly what grades he climbs but he’s pretty good. He has been up the nose on El Cap in ten hours and he almost got to the top of Cerro Torre.” I say.
“It has to be him!” She proceeded to tell me the story. She’d been travelling with a couple of Brazilian guys and they’d just finished climbing at La Platea. They were driving a blue Land Rover defender 130 and had picked up a climber from New Zealand, heading towards El Chalten. He had recently come off Cerro Torre and was heading back to town. He jumped in the back of the truck.
Meanwhile, in the front, her Brazilian friends had recognised him as a guy who had been climbing next to them at the crag.
“That’s the guy who climbed a 7a in La Platea, barefoot. He’s a legend!” they said excitedly.
I smile. That’s definitely Asher.
I looked down and laughed because I didn’t have shoes on either.
We said goodbye to our new friends and continued walking up the valley towards the Continental Divide.
If you want to read about some of Asher’s adventures, check out his blog. He tells a damn good adventure story!