Today I unfolded a jacket that was worn by a dead man for 40 years on the side of K2. I needed to see the label inside to make sure it was the jacket listed in the accession record and identified in a photograph.
It is battered and torn. And stained. Handling it was a very eerie feeling, as if there was something of his presence still attached to it. This feeling was especially emotional given the fact that the bodies of 2 climbers have just been discovered this week, and 1 is still missing. I have had conversations with 2 of those guys. I know other climbers who have lost partners in the mountains. It’s hard not to imagine their last experiences when holding the shredded remnants of the things they last touched.
That is something that cannot be communicated in a digital image. It is visceral.
And, it occured to me later, I should probably have used gloves. For my benefit, and for the good of the object. As it was, I’ve been compulsively washing my hands today.