July 25th, 2011
It was an effort of putting one foot in front of the other and keeping my mind occupied enough that I could press on. It was mountaineering; not terribly technical, but physical, requiring some skill, and managing risk from crevasses, rockfall, and altitude.
At 14,000 feet I shuffled like a 80 year old, teetered like a drunk. Altitude is a hangover without the party. My head was starting to hurt and my nausea passed only after I dry heaved. Forcibly hyperventilating was the only way I could capture enough oxygen; even so, I was out of breath and, more annoyingly, low on energy. Two fast breaths for each step. I wanted more red blood cells.
(Mt. Rainier by moonlight. 13 second exposure, f5.6, ISO3200, using a rock as a tripod. Note the three lights on the mountain of teams on different routes starting their ascent ~2.00am)
For all the effort, it was also a huge relief. I’ve been missing the mountains. I hiked up the Muir Snowfield by the light of a half moon. I watched the sun rise from eastern Washington, spilling its light across the Cascades to brighten the dark valleys below. I made my body hurt, and in that hurt was presence and connection. Immediacy.
It was Frank’s idea to do it in a day from the car; it’s not uncommon, but most people choose to hike the Disappointment Cleaver, a heavily guided trade route, in two or three days. By doing it in a day, with optimal weather conditions (sunny and calm), we could lighten our loads and move faster.
Frank was great company and, as another photographer, understanding of the camera weight we carried and our pausing for pictures. His only complaint was that I was wearing all black on the summit, which isn’t so great for his photos. Fine by me. At that moment, all I wanted to do was head down to the thicker air below.
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