Friday, January 23, 2009

Electric Peak continued..

On the lee side, you strip off a bottom layer only to put more on. Fleece pants and down vest to keep the warmth in as the wind tries to blow it out.

The clouds surrounding us come and go. What at times appears like a dream looking through frosted glass suddenly gets blown away to the crystal clear reality of the cold dense air. Like stepping out of the shower. Suddenly the world changes from a 15 feet radius to miles of panoramic views of rolling hillsides and jagged snow-capped peaks.

FASTLAYNE is in the fast lane as always and up ahead, beyond sight. The cool damp haze returns and I continue upward. Craning my head to plan my path. I arrive at a monolith in my way. I veer left into a notch in the rock like the entrance to a gated neighborhood. In front is a sketchy 45 degree slope of rock and scree. To my right a 15 foot jagged crag leading obscured into the clouds.

"This isn't the right way," FASTLAYNE yells from above.

"You think I should go down there?!" I respond leaning forward to see any semblance of a path.

"Yeah! I'm pretty sure up is not the right way."

I look again. Then take a few steps to peer around the corner. It still doesn't look good.

Well. He went up that way. I'm going to do the same.

As soon as I begin the hand over hand scramble, I can see what he means. The rock is loose, shifting under your hands and feet. Pieces fall from your grasp. Soon it's easy to tell that this entire monolith was once a solid piece of rock that has been shattered into hundreds of foot long chunks and simply stacked like a game of Jenga. Fear creeps in that the one you just disturbed might collapse the whole thing with Satan yelling "JENGA!" as you fall to your death.

I get to the top of the section, hearing the wind howl over the highest mountain in the range. Suddenly the fear gets to me. Listening to the wind it feels like the mountain is swaying as I watch the clouds rushing by. I shift my feet and lay against the rock trying to stay as low and as stable as possible. My chest tightens and my breath quickens. I curl up against the cold, red rock and shudder.

I lay there for minutes focusing on my breath. I count to five as I try to slow each inhale and exhale. I purse my lips and puff my cheeks as I forcefully push the air out connecting the sound to my muscles relaxing the tension. Pffffffffff.....

I decide to move forward because backwards looks just as scary. I tell myself, I can do this. "You're a capable climber, you can do this." "Just take your time, make sure each hold is solid." "Don't need to be dynamic, just steady and stable." "You can climb 5.11, this is a piece of cake."

I move using all my climbing skills to make this as safe as possible. I have my arms outstretched, bending my knees keeping my weight low. I tug at the rock to ensure it's stability before shifting my weight. I move smoothly, fluidly. Tug, move. Tug, move. Tug, "WHOA!"

Click.. click.. CLACK, click.. click.... click............ click.....

A big piece or rock tumbles down 75 feet of scree. It appears to be in slow motion as I watch the the rock bounce down the mountain. The sound jarring the quiet of its flight. After each impact, it silently flips end-over-end. The noise fades into the wind as it falls out of sight.

I desperately grasp at the rock as I suddenly feel gravity tugging at me. Feeling the anxiety return with images of falling 20 feet to the scree then tumbling down the mountainside beyond the sight and sound of FASTLAYNE, I quickly scramble to the top of the section knocking pieces down as I go.

Click, clack, click, clack.

I move quickly, and dynamically hoping that the rock will stay put long enough for me to get by. I purse my lips and puff my cheeks. PFFFFF... My mind returns to breathing. Forceful at first, then deeper as I try to control the fear. "It's OK" I tell myself. "You're doing fine. Just keep moving." "Slooowly."

I pick my way up and over the back of the stegosaurus of a mountain.

Soon I see the red glow of FASTLAYNE's jacket in the mist.

"Did you make it to the summit?" I ask.


"How much further?" I somewhat pleadingly inquire.

"Oh, it's right up there." he points with the movement of his head.

"K.." "You wanna go back up?"


He falls in behind me as I push the last 40 feet to the summit. As I move towards the peak, the wind seems to calm. An eerie silence begins to fill my ears.

"Is this it? Or is that the peak?" I ask as I point to another little point.

"I think it's this one, it has the register under the rock."

I look out into the grey slosh imagining the view. "That was the scariest thing I've ever done."

"Wasn't it great?!" FASTLAYNE gushes.

I pause in response as I remember a thought on the way up. My life is worth way more than the excitement of this climb. Mapping this peak is not nearly as important as my life. What was I thinking??

But I did it anyway. So I stand at the top of 10,969" Electric peak and yell the everlasting call of excitement, accomplishment and relief -


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