Monday, December 8, 2008

Electric Peak

On November 1st we successfully summited Electric Peak. Boogie-woogie-woogie! And boy, it may have been the scariest most death-defying thing I've ever done. It's only 4.2 miles from the campsite but that last .2+ is sheer absurdity... especially when you take the wrong route.

Cliffhangers, endings and a journey home:

From the trail junction and beginning of the S. E. Electric Peak Trail it begins like any good cliffhanger does, gently. You rise and fall meandering towards the peak till suddenly, the story takes a turn. Suddenly you're digging your toes into the dirt scrambling straight up the mountain wondering what happened. And soon you realize that you're on a straight path towards the peak. It's inevitable. You see that thin line of the ridge under your feet lead all the way up and into the clouds that ominously hides the summit.

Once on the turn, you simply apply effort and some hard breathing to make progress upward. Not easy, but you know what needs to be done. You put your head down and summon that 'can do' mountain climbing ego and press those toes into the spongy black dirt lurching your 150 lbs. forward.

They say that all the trails in the West are nicely graded and switchbacked. LIES!

The grade shifts from a nice hillside ascent to standing on the balls of your feet on a slope so steep your calves can't stretch far enough to put your heels down. You lean forward in fear of falling backward. In fear of tumbling forever into the stream now far, far below. Head down and lurch. Step. Step. Step. Rest. Step. Step. Step. Rest.

The story is kept interesting by surprising you with a small reprieve making one switchback through a dry gully. Step. Step. Step. Step. Rest.

You pause to take a photo and turn so that those lovely heels can finally return to earth again.

"Onward and upward," the ego shouts with a overly dramatic point to the top as you lean into the hillside like leaning into the wind.

Soon there's wind too. Up ahead you can hear the wind whistling over the ridge. You brace yourself and prepare to lean forward and sideways suddenly feeling less like a climber and more like those inflatable, weighted clown punching dolls being pushed every which way.

The clear path to the summit begins to appear less clear. Follow the ridge, yes. But the agreeable or likely path up, not so clear. You know where the story is going, but how? Straight up the ridge? Along the rocky bluff? Turn left at Albuquerque? It's a mystery!

Pick a path and go. There's a storyline and a plot, but it ain't a mystery, it's more a choose your own adventure.

You find a faint path here and there guiding you up the increasingly precipitous ridge. Treadway going from black dirt to black rocks. The side of the ridge looking less like a hill and more like a cliff.

The character list is short but sturdy. Your compatriot leads the way providing certainty and resolve when yours is lacking. He is the embodiment of the climbing ego.

The rocky bluff that once protected you from the bitter, blowing wind becomes a shade of fiery red like that of a past girlfriend's hair.

The wind brings a song floating into your head. "It's raining in Baltimore, for 50 odd years. Watching and waiting today."

That bluff becomes the ridge and the separator between a slope of loose rock and vertical wall. The further up the mountain the further it stands out like the dorsal fin of an ancient creature.

To be continued...