05 August 2014
Part of my tiny world as seen from the summit of Mount Bierstadt...
It was still dark when I forced myself from sleep. The small hours. It'd been a few months since I'd done this to myself willingly. The last time involved politics. I had a promise to keep.
My digital weather station in the kitchen told me it was fifty degrees out. Meteorological prophecy foretold of rain, the same chance as the day before. Monsoon. I lit a stick of incense and asked of the dragons to hold off on the rains until we were back down, just as I have this summer when we've gone up to Santiago.
So far, so good. Either I've caught the ear of esoteric Chinese rain gods or I've been lucky. Choose your superstition. I joke I owe the Long Wang either a live chicken or a virgin, whichever I can find first.
A quick breakfast of toast and eggs with coffee and my daughter and I were off at the speed of owl feathers, reaching the trailhead as the first light of dawn started to illuminate the alpine landscape. One day, she wants to summit Mount Danali. In the meantime, she wants to get a few of Colorado's fourteener's under her belt. I promised to do one, and the day had come for the marker to be called.
The lot was already full. Even on a Tuesday, Mount Bierstadt is a happening place to be. It is considered an easy fourteener by virtue of the fact you start out at eleven-thousand, six-hundred sixty-nine feet to reach a summit of fourteen-thousand, sixty-seven feet. Although, most any mountaineer will tell you, there are no easy fourteeners.
Personally, when I end up atop a mountain, I prefer twelve and thirteen thousand foot peaks. Less people. Sometimes less trail. Some of those mountains do not have names affixed to them in the clumsy and arrogant tongues of Man, and I find poetry in that.
Still, we were up in the alpine zone. One of my happy places. The amount of people at o' sunrise-thirty was lite compared to what we'd encounter a few hours later descending. A moose cow watched us nonchalantly from the willow bogs. Marmots and pikas stood sentry on rock outcroppings. There were elk, and, on the way back home, even a group of bighorn. My daughter commented she was surprised to see so much wildlife in the presence of so many humans. It was the Wild Kingdom roll of the bones. Sometimes, when on solitary walkabout in the outback, it's a stretch to see a lone chickaree.
On the summit, my pack thermometer read forty degrees even. The skies were clear with puffy clouds overhead and the coiling dragons from a day before's and the coming afternoon's storms to west. Mount Evans, a mile and a half away by the treacherous Sawtooth Ridge, gleamed in the mid-morning light. I could clearly see the observatory one of the universities had put there, and caught a slight pang of envy for what must be spectacular to see on a clear night.
As we started to pick our way down, one member of the first group we encountered was playing The Final Countdown at high volume. I contemplated quiet seriously feeding him to Frozen Lake, far below, but not before accidentally eviscerating him, not only for disturbing the pristine mountain quiet with something as banal human musics, but also for his choice of said music. Not a court in all the realms heavens, Earth, or the hellscapes would've convinced me.
No, The Worm, Your Honor, I don't know what happened. He came jogging past me blaring muthafuckingEurope-and imagine how dirty I feel for knowing that!-and his entrails just suddenly fell out before he pitched over the edge. Screaming. Why, yes, I might've had my knife out, but it was only to innocently and wholesomely clean my fingernails, and at no time did I drive one of my trek poles into his eye socket. Twice. What did his friends do? The Worm, Your Honor, you forget yourself! After all, what sort of base and degenerate creature would befriend someone who listens to muthafuckingEurope?
Airtight, I tell you. In fact, I'd have probably gotten a medal.
We reached the trailhead before noon. My daughter pointed out a comment in the registry book which illicited a a chuckle; 'need a beer, stat!' As we threw our gear into Old Scratch, we took in the mountain with a sense of accomplishment. Of course, what I really took from our walkabout was something a man around the magistrate's age with a fabulous British accent said to his wife after a rest-break;
"Well, c'mon, ol' girl, let's go conquer something!"
Oh, fuck yes. That is to become my trekking mantra.
The intrepid mountaineers atop their day's conquest...