The morning of November 27, 2004, dawned windy and gray. There was reason to hope that the thermometer would remain above freezing at noon (good reason, actually, since it was already in the high 50s at 8 AM). It was a perfect day for the Conquest of Driskill Mountain. We rose late, navigated the circuitous route through Cloud Crossing, and arrived at our base camp in the parking lot of the Mount Zion Presbyterian Church shortly before 11:30 AM. It was an appropriate place for a base camp, since we believed that we were predestined to reach the summit of Driskill.
The nearby Driskill Cemetery paid tribute to those that had gone before us... Hodges, Blaylocks, Bryces, and, of course, Driskills. Noticeably absent were markers for other well-known mountaineers: Alphonse Boudreaux (who disappeared on a summit attempt in 1934); Francois Thibodeaux (who is believed to have reached the summit on February 2, 1987, but became disoriented during his descent via the treacherous "East Saddle" and was last seen selling depression glass at the Bonnie and Clyde Trade Days and RV Park in nearby Arcadia); and Reinhold Messner (who had enough sense not to attempt Driskill in the first place). Also absent were the sherpas and yaks commonly found at base camps surrounding the world's significant peaks.
Fortunately, living in Monroe, Louisiana, at 82 feet above sea level had provided us with the opportunity to adjust to the elevation of the Driskill summit (535 feet) without the usual days or even weeks required to acclimatize to such low elevations. It also made it possible for us to make the climb without the supplemental carbon dioxide that is often necessary to combat the high concentrations of oxygen found on Driskill.
The details of our trip will be published in Amy's upcoming chronicle, "Into Thick Air -- Hope In the Face of Driskill". For the present it is enough to say that, led by our faithful guide dog Annie, we scrambled up slopes of harsh, unforgiving leaves, took one arduous step after another along the wide gravel trail, gasped to take in the oxygen-rich air, swatted mosquitoes the size of small birds, and risked hyperthermia. Signs saying things like, "NO, NO, NO", and, "Driskill Mtn thatta way", helped us to avoid the dreaded False (South) Summit. We paused for a brief moment of silence at the remnants of a campsite probably used by Boudreaux during his ill-fated ascent. Finally, after what seemed like an hour, we came into view of the rock cairn marking the True Summit. It was at that point that our mettle was truly tested as we walked the final yards among the bushes and trees which provide formidable obstacles at such low elevation and latitude. We reached the summit at 12:24 PM, as the attached photograph will attest.
As we stood at the summit and gazed with wonder around us we recalled the immortal words of expedition leader "Massa" John Crochet at the conclusion of their First-Ever Winter Ascent of Driskill Mountain's North Face on January 1, 2000: "Why K2 when you can climb Driskill?" To which we would respond, "Why, indeed?"