A Peak

A Peak

This is stupid.  In a cloud atop Mount Diller, I break out the map and compass.  The plan was to climb Mount Diller, then work along the ridgeline leading to Lassen Peak.  Bivvy somewhere near the summit, and head back down tomorrow.  But this is stupid.  I can’t see fifty feet, much less my next waypoint.  The only way I made it here was to just keep going up.  You keep hoping to break through the clouds at some point, and get a view.  See the sun.  Get out of the dampness. 


But hope is a feeling, and mountains don’t care about feelings.  This is stupid.  Why am I here.  And how the heck am I getting down. 


I’m here to burn through two more days of the Great Dislocation.  Alone.  Two thousand miles from home.  Choosing the difficulty of solo climbing to distract from the haunting solitude of a three-day weekend.  Fourteen hundred days in, and just over a hundred more to go before trial.  Who knows how that will end up.  Who knows how this will end up.  I’m here to get back to the top of something.  Just a few days left to the one year anniversary of the accident and darn it, I’m going to summit something again.  A thin sock and the toe just barely fits in the boot.  Something is always hurting while climbing anyway, so the toe just fades into that.  The stiff shank makes it doable, at all.  Thank you, to whoever at Lowa designed the Mountain Expert GTX Evo.  I love these boots.  And I do like this place, even though it’s always terrible while I’m here.


Yosemite will be chock full of tourists on Memorial Day weekend, so it’s off to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  I suppose it’s one of the lesser National Parks, but it’s still amazing.  Was here last February when it was brutally cold.  This weekend, it’s precipitation.  Rain.  Snow.  Mist.  Sleet.  Thunder snow.  If it falls out of a cloud, this park’s got it, all in one day.   It also has a few peaks.  Some of which are remnants of prior volcanic explosions.  Some of which are just waiting to explode.  There’s a metaphor in there, somewhere.


But this isn’t a metaphor.  This is life.  Standing on a mountain in a sleeting cloud.  Utterly alone.  Cold, damp and not necessarily in prime decision-making mode.  I told Marcia I got a satellite communicator so she wouldn’t need to worry about me hiking alone in the back country.  I thought she’d find comfort in that but it made her worry more.  She was worried that with the new safety device, I’d elevate the risk.  She was right.


But not completely.  Alone atop cloud-shrouded Mt. Diller, I do the sifting of possibilities and imagine the ridgeline traverse would be possible with a climbing partner.  We could distribute the load, have lighter packs, and take turns on lead.  We could share knowledge, make better decisions and rope up to mitigate the risk.  The traverse would be possible with either better weather or two people, but neither of those options is at hand.     


The altitude’s not so high that it impairs your thinking so, slow as I am, it comes to me as I sit on a cold damp rock and fuel up with a cookie.  I do have a partner.  And we are completing a traverse.  My partner’s in Iowa, probably baking something right now, if only out of habit.  Tending the house, mowing the lawn, feeding the cats.  We’re thousands of miles apart, but as roped up as could be as we traverse from the lovely life we had, across this chasm of separation, to the next peak.  I don’t know where that is, and the where isn’t really the point anyway. 


But it isn’t alone on Lassen Peak, or dead somewhere between here and there.   


My partner is calling me.


It’s time to head down.