Lessons from the mountain

It’s been a couple of months of travel all over New England for anyone who cares enough to follow this humble blog. Last weekend I attempted to reach Tuckerman Ravine on Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. The mountain is a mankiller, once feared by the local Native Americans and for good reason. Given the 100 degree winds, mounds of snow, and uncertain avalanche conditions prevailing, we elected not to go into the bowl itself.

The walk up to it alone was murder, lugging skis and boots. My companion had brought too much beer, and so was slowed even further. Climbing up, caught between an all too bright sun, the reflection of the snow underfoot, the dizziness, the drifting thoughts…the experience seemed like a dream. In that bright world where light is cleaner and stronger, and the sun hammers down on your head and burns your eyes, and the snow underfoot provides an anvil, life is more real. It’s only you and the pain keeping you close company and verifying your existence and nothing much more. Sometimes, you feel ready to pass out or fall over the edge of the trail, and you can’t go on anymore; and then suddenly you are walking comfortably, strutting even, at the base cabin of the ravine, surrounded by fellow hikers and adventurers.

The way down was fun at first–but cross country skis weren’t the ideal means of taking the ski trail down. It was a mix of skiing, walking, sliding on my rump, and making a slow descent.

I had been outclassed by the mountain, but I’ll be back.