On the way up. Hyndman's East Ridge
Gray. Nothing but gray, the sky, the silent granite of the mountain, everything. There is no sound save for the rushing wind, my own breathing, and the scrape of the solid stone against my leather boots. This is life at 11,500 feet on Hyndman Peak, and I am finally living it. Still 500 feet below the summit, I pause to rest and gaze out over the mountain scene before me. A thousand feet below my feet a tiny speck, which only barely resembles the dad I left behind a half-hour ago,
waves at me from the saddle. I feel like a giant looking down on a human ant. Looking to the North now I peer 4,000 vertical feet down into the bottom of Wildhorse canyon, where everything, the trees, the lakes, the rock, seem frozen in time. The crumbling and jagged peaks jutting up abruptly from the canyon make me think back thousands of years to when they were hewn out of solid stone by the slow and silent violence of glaciers.
The crackle of my Dad’s voice on my radio interrupts my reverie, “Are you at the top yet?”
“No,” I reply, “almost.” Saying that, I stand up and continue to scramble my way up through the maze of boulders, scree, and talus. With every step the rock grows steeper, the air grows thinner. I am within view of the summit, it’s spires reaching to heaven as if the mountain wished to continue upward but suddenly vanished. 200 more feet, 100, 50, I’m there! Finally at the top of the mountain that has called to me since I first knew its name. I look up into the sky which has now cleared revealing a brilliant sapphire blue, made all the more intense by my 12,009 foot elevation. If I reach any farther it feels as if I will be able to escape the clutch of gravity and touch space.
My legs, and lungs finally overcome my mental exhilaration and make me sit down on the summit which is not much larger than a tabletop. I wish my Dad had been able to make it to the top with me but I know he’s enjoying himself 1200 feet below me, and had he come he might not have enjoyed himself quite as much.
The view is absolutely spectacular and it makes my battle with the granite of the peak seem insignificant. Now instead of feeling like a giant as I had before, I feel small and insignificant as Moses of old after viewing all of God’s creations. As far as the eye can see there are massive, jagged peaks, looking as though they were thrust up from the center of the earth, heaps of stone thrown carelessly upon a flat landscape. The names of the mountains and ranges I see come to my mind, many of them formidable in reference to their size, height, and shape: Castle Peak, the White Cloud mountains, the Sawtooth and Boulder ranges, The Devil’s Bedstead. The sight of these peaks intoxicates me with desire to stand on top of each and every one.
Unfortunately time is not on my side and a glance at my watch makes me make the painful decision of finally descending the mountain that I have worked so hard to ascend. Taking one last glance at the sea of mountains around me I turn my attention to the floor of the basin below me where my Dad is waiting for my report. With feelings of joy at having climbed the mountain mixed with sadness at having to leave so soon, I take the first step down from the land of the wind, the Pikas and Mountain Goats, and toward the land of the humans.
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