The Gift: Thor Peak, 10-17-09


Originally posted on the WPSMB on 10-19-09

“Heights seem to pull one up to reflection, to proofs of existence outside daily detail, choice and necessity… Mountain people live with this inner resonance.” — Andrea Mead Lawrence

The snow slope towered to the south above Lower Boy Scout Lake, shadowed undulations just covering the roughened talus and scree, the sun still hiding behind the ridge. The earliest group whooped a greeting from the northern cat ear, a number of the throng yelling in return and waving to those high above. Long breaks in the sunshine at the waterfall had brought all the separate groups together, conversations sparkling like the smiles all around and the dancing water as it tumbled from the Carrilon drainage. It was not a difficult decision to meld the groups and together ascend the Secret Route: it felt right.

Tom took the lead from the lake until the firm snow prohibited penetration from kicking. Jeff stepped forward and started cutting steps with his axe, James digging and stomping further to provide the platforms for the train to follow. The lazy fall sun finally climbed above the ridge, casting long shadows across the rain-crusted snow, a meager attempt to warm the train as it (mostly) patiently waited for its track to be laid out. Slowly, carefully, we picked our way up the slope, until Doug kicked the other ladies in the rear and Carole danced up the footsteps left from Richard’s descent the day before. The entire climb, there was not one whimper, not one complaint, no one admitting fear or worry about their safety. More smiles, more laughter, more awe from the new vistas and perspectives both outside and within.

The train spread out across the final slog up the summit plateau, conversations quieting as each climber dug deep to find the strength to finish the job at hand. Everyone knew, instinctively, what they had to do for themselves to get to the top: humming to themselves, stopping to eat, altering pace, breathe. But again, no frowns of frustration, no quibbling about who was stronger or weaker, faster or slower. The early group, silouhetted in the sun, eagerly but patiently danced out on the rocks to watch the line of ants step ever closer to the summit blocks. Hands extended, boosts from behind, cheers to those below, but always smiles.

Slowly, the crowd swelled among the boulders on top, each stepping carefully across gaps and finding a spot to sit, eat, rest, and talk excitedly of the effort. More often then not, utterances of “I can’t believe I’m here!”, “That was amazing!”, “I’ve never done anything like this before!”, “You do this EVERY weekend?” Cameras going off in all directions as we all soaked in the grand view from the center of the amphitheater. Bee and Doug Sr. tromped to the top, completing the line, our number increased to 33. Conversations lulled as Tom broke out the banner and the words from Ilene Ashcraft, James reading from M.C.’s song of legends. Karen pulled out her ukelele and printed verses, quiet voices sending Amazing Grace to the heavens as tears welled and fell. Normally I would sing. Instead, I lodged myself down between two boulders and gazed south to Arc Pass, Consultation Lake sparkling in the autumn light as my own sobs rose. The rocks were warm against my skin, the air crisp, as the spirit of that group rose and bonded, embracing us all as we celebrated Kent, his passion for adventure, and his love of family both immediate and extended. Our mountains absorbed the final notes of Forever Young as they floated on the breeze, standing stoic and silent as they have for millions of years, their own power and strength buoying up that of the group.

Confidence swelled with a succesful summit, the group descended to the cat ear, and we spaced out the beginners between those more experienced on snow for the descent. Although in shadow, the snow remained soft from the afternoon sun, and the trains plunge-stepped back down the to the dry earth of Lower Boy Scout Lake, cheering each who emerged from the moraine, only one minor slip reported from the bunch. An amazing feat indeed.

Words don’t often fail me, but there just aren’t enough to convey what happened up there. We all learned something that day, about ourselves, and about each other. That is truly the gift of the mountains.

It was Kent’s gift to all of us.

Blessings to all of you, and to all who were with us in spirit.

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.

All my love,
L

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