Evolution of ascent

It starts as a chin wag with a pal. “I’ve never been up” and “me neither” uttered over a beer in a parking lot. Soon after, checking the mountain forecast with irrational frequency. Packing dehydrated spaghetti, oatmeal you can barely stomach but take out of habit and laziness, salted almond chocolate bars, and a bag of Swedish Fish from IKEA. Weighing your food on a digital scale, wondering if your duct-tape repair on the tent pole will hold. Five am alarm, six am rendez-vous, caffeine stop and Tupperware breakfast eaten en route. Three bars on the phone. Final weather check. Driving up dusty switchbacks on a gravel road more rut than road. Licorice fern on green velvet branches of maple. Trailhead chill. Boots laced, packs packed. Dog tracks and human tracks mingle through boggy tread. Musky pong of skunk cabbage. Breaking out of the forest, you look behind and behold a jagged graph of peaks and forget you’re tired. A marmot whistles, periscoping at 2 o’clock in the talus. Nalgene upended. A swig of plain water never tasted better. Altimeter check. Looking forward to making camp and sitting around a blue stove flame. Shoveling down sporkfuls of pasta, waiting for the first star to appear. Slipping into your bag, collapsing in the arms of Morpheus. Freeze-dried flatulence. Waking up to pee and ogling the starry night. Blissfully unaware of the news of the world. Making your way by the diffused beam of a headlamp. Cramponing past cairns. The rattle of biners. The hollow, metallic clang of ax on rock. A goat’s quotation marks in the snow. Snacking at sunrise. Morning sun on cold cheeks. Feeling like Icarus. Scrambling summitward over pesky choss. Standing on an apex, skirted by humbling, gaze-sucking relief. High fives, ritual chocolate, breaking bread, unfolding the accordion map, pointing and calling out familiar names. Onward and downward, losing vert, retracing rock and snow. Breaking camp and downward still. Who lengthened the trail? Swapping boots for sandals, salt-ringed shirt for clean cotton tee. Cracking open a few cold ones on the tailgate and talking of trips to come. No frigate like a wilderness.


4 responses to “Evolution of ascent

  1. awewsome!

  2. Susan Zwiener

    very nice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Nice one, Nance. Keep writing!

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