A Dream For Drew

What follows is an account of a dream I had while I was in Cochamo this past season. I never met Niels Tietze, but I wish I had. RIP, Niels.

A Dream for Drew

Yesterday, Chance, Megan and I climbed the long lower apron of Walwalun, in the Anfiteatro. It was an exploratory mission. We just wanted to see. What we thought at the start might have been a new route ended up having occasional bolts and tat along the way. The large ledge beneath the headwall was a pyrrhic victory. We hadn’t achieved much, but there we were. Everything was fine. The sunset was glowing pink. We were together, humbled by the mountain, happy. Eventually we made our way down, and fell asleep. In my slumber, I had this dream.

I dreamed I was dying. I wasn’t happy about it, but it was ok. I knew it was coming – they said I had cancer – and I thought, well, alright, some things are simply out of our hands. And besides, there’s always the chance they’ll be wrong.

In the dream, I was climbing with Megan, our friend, Drew, and a man I never met: Niels – who was back alive. It was his day to die, too, and we all knew it but him. We were walking along a ledgy 4th class ramp system with Niels in the rear, and we all kept stopping to look back at him and see if he was still there. He looked at us uneasily. You could tell he could tell something was off. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to tell him it was coming, it just wouldn’t have done any good. It was written. There was nothing we could do about either him dying, or him not knowing it was about to happen. So what good would it have done to talk about it? He wouldn’t have believed us anyway.

I never met Niels in real life, but in the dream I could tell there was something very special within him. Well, okay, everyone is special. That must be true. But I could feel what he was. How his certain vibration fit so spectacularly into the universe. And to think of him leaving made me sad. Not for him so much as for those who knew him. Like Drew.

In real life, Drew knew Niels well. Drew was the one who found him, lifeless down there on the valley floor. They were supposed to climb together that day. This event has precipitated a prolonged depression and unease for Drew, which he and I have talked about a bit. I have no solutions for Drew. But I love Drew. And I’m glad he’s still around.

In the dream, I was glad Drew was there to spend my last day with me. I was happy that he would be able to see that I was fine, had come to terms with it. In fact, there wasn’t even anything to come to terms with at all. It was a pleasant mystery. A divine adventure. I was looking forward to getting started.

In the very end I was on a grassy hillside, somewhere I’ve never been before. On the other side was some big slatey slab of cliff where we were going to go climbing. It was nice of Meg and Drew to take me climbing for my last day. And nice of my parents to let them!

When we got to the top where we needed to rap in, though, there were already climbers on the wall. But I didn’t mind. It was the golden hour, the sun was casting these long pleasant beams about everywhere you looked, and the grass was quintessentially green. We must have been in Ireland, or Scotland or something. That green. I was telling Drew about how I’d always wanted to climb the Doublets, and East Rosebud, up in his home state. I joked with Megan about how funny it would be if, after all the to-do, the doctors had gotten it wrong, and I just kept right on living.

I started feeling pleasantly sleepy. Luxuriously sleepy. Sleepiness settled over me like a warm blanket, and I cozied up into it happily. The last thing I recall was texting my mom: “Not dead yet… smiley face emoji.” That was how the dream ended.

After the sunset on Walwalun, we had to find our way down. Chance and Meg had been smart and brought jackets. But I was a jackass, and left the deck unprepared. So Megan and I hugged at the belays during the descent, which Chance led the entire way, drilling anchor after anchor down the long dark face. Pressed together, it was actually quite warm. Each time Meg left my embrace to load her belay device, a cold shiver passed through me.

I was freezing, but I felt fine looking down and seeing the little glowing orb of her headlamp descending safely to Chance below. I knew I’d be with them again soon.


You can read more about Niels here and here.

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