Poems of Mountains: "Piton" a Poetic Tribute to Mountains and Heroes

In the world where mountains stand as enduring symbols of challenge, triumph, and the unwavering spirit of exploration, a poem emerges as a heartfelt tribute to the core of mountaineering. Penned by Phil Houghton, the poem titled "Piton" resonates with the endeavours of mountaineers, and marked the inauguration of the MHT (Mountain Heritage Trust) head office at Blencathra back in 2017. Through its verses, the poem encapsulates the relentless determination of climbers, the rich history of human exploration, and the enduring bond between humanity and mountain peaks.


on the mountain
its racks and shelves
compress stratum of endeavour
contain thousands of feet
of peaks
by them
- the household-names
of a Nation’s pride
its people, in their daily toil
each, their own “mountain
to climb”, yet
through them – a celebration of heroes
taking on explorations
conquests, on our behalf
- All are “mountaineers”, by proxy

they chose to climb
a geomorphology of human form
and how today
a handhold, cool in the crack
of a volcanic flow
they reach across time
to gain their height

their going out, a going in

this archive
is a living thing, a continuance
it is a piton
in the rock face of our histories
securing moments of time,
when we reached
for the summits,
our, thin aired outer limits,
close to moon and stars,
but roped-off, here
by an umbilical
to the nascent society
from which these rock-facers
struck out on our behalf
to Adventure
this piton
is no memorial,
it is a roping-on
a place of safe return
a place of striking out

where names
loom large
as conquered peaks
silhouettes on the skyline
of alpine history

that could be at once human
or peak
a stratification of time-built
geologies, its stores
a record as solid and unerring
as the mountain itself, wind-worn
yet recognisable
defining both rock and human

fixing mountain names
to Time, like peaks themselves;


the silent many
the spoken few
a cartography of endeavour
a mapping of human geologies
with permanence
with the rock

this place
this heritage
- a piton.
Phil M Houghton
Copyright 2017
Written for 24th March 2017 Opening, Mountain Heritage Trust Archive at Blencathra FSC

Verses that Resonate

In "Piton," Phil Houghton employs poetic language to conjure the mystical landscapes of mountains. Each stanza unfolds a story of shared aspirations among mountaineers, from scaling rocky precipices to achieving summits. The poem captures the allure of mountains as both physical terrain and a metaphorical journey, emphasising how each individual faces their own unique challenges. Through these verses, Houghton paints a vivid picture of collective strength and the resilience of the human spirit.

A Chronicle of Legends

The poem acts as a bridge between the past and the present, paying homage to the luminaries of mountaineering who left an indelible mark on history. It evokes names like Bonington, Hillary, Tenzing, and others, figures who elevated mountaineering to heroic heights and furthered the cause of exploration. The poem's verses evoke not only these iconic individuals but also the countless unnamed climbers who shared in the pursuit of summiting, united by their thirst for adventure and discovery.

A Living Archive

Much like the mountains themselves, "Piton" introduces the MHT's head office as an archive that reverberates with the stories of climbers. Like a piton securely driven into the rock face, this archive preserves moments in time, safeguarding the legacy of human endeavour. The poem imbues the archive with a sense of vitality, underscoring its role as a custodian of history and a source of inspiration for future generations of mountaineers.

A Continuance of Heritage

“Piton" celebrates the continuum of exploration and adventure, providing a glimpse into the dedication of modern-day mountaineers who venture into the high-altitude wilderness, akin to reaching for the moon and stars. The poem connects these contemporary heroes to their societal origins, emphasising how their courageous feats and determination contribute to the tapestry of shared heritage.

In the rhythmic verses of "Piton," Phil Houghton crafts a heartfelt ode to mountains, mountaineers, and the enduring connection that binds them. This poetic tribute encapsulates the essence of mountaineering—its trials, victories, and the profound link between humans and nature. Through its eloquent language, "Piton" evokes the timeless majesty of mountains while honouring the courageous souls who have etched their names into the annals of history. Just as a piton anchors climbers on their ascent, this poem secures the spirit of mountaineering in the heart of human heritage, reminding us that our ascent, whether a mountain or the journey of life itself, is an integral part of the fabric of our existence.

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