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A Risky Encounter
THIS is a MOUNTAIN CLIMBING STORY.
It is a true story that happened when I was leading a climb. For reasons found in the story I no longer lead climbs with young fast athletes, but look for slower hiking partners more my own age, experience and fitness level.
JUST LIKE MY MOTHER
Marsha clutched her ice axe. What had possessed her to lead a climb at her age?The day had started well enough. A group of eager mountaineers managed to get their cars and trucks up the logging roads to the start of the climb.
Route Finding was easy because of the clear sunny day. The meadows were welcoming full of flowers: Lupins,Paintbrush, and babbling brooks to cool the hot thirsty climbers. Marsha looked carefully and spotted traces of grizzly bears,places where the big creatures had been digging up groundhogs. But none of the grizzlies were in sight blocking the way.
When her group were unsure of the route they waited for her to catch up, but when the route looked clear and the summit was in sight, they took off like a shot.
"The weather looks like its changing. Lets meet on the summit." Said the tall young man Ted.
"Fine, just keep to the left till you get to the ridge. Be sure to avoid those cliffs on the right."
"Sure we see them" He said and they were running up the rock scree to the ridge as Marsha plodded behind. Damn it, did she tell them to watch for crevasses on the glacier?
Marsha's climbing club was a "do it yourself" type of group. Usually the faster climbers went on ahead. But she tried to keep up and felt like she wasn't being a very good trip leader.She reached the ridge, crossed along to the edge of the glacier and jumped onto the ice. She quickly climbed a steep bit of snow kicking steps and leaning on her ice axe. Clouds were blowing in.
There was the bergschrund, the deep crack between the glacier and the tumbled rock of the peak. She stumbled, grasping at icy rocks and pulling herself up onto the rock from the narrowest part of the bergschrund. She clambered upwards scrambling as fast a she could.
She finally gained the summit ridge when the young climbers from her group were already descending. At the bergschrund they jumped the deep crack, smiling.Some shouted at her as they descended:
“Ho Marsha. Get up quick before it snows.”
Maria, was waiting at the summit. She smiled at Marsha and offered her some chocolate. "We amigas have t’stick together.”
“Thanks for waiting Maria.” Said Marsha.
“Donde esta la vista?” They peered through gathering clouds. No view.
“Let’s descend fast before it snows.” Said Marsha.
Maria leaped down, teetering on the boulders. She jumped the bergschrund at a wide spot, and started quickly glissading down the glacier’s fall line.
“No, not that way.” Shouted Marsha, searching for the safest spot to cross the bergschrund.
“Why not?” Asked Maria.
“Cliffs, Maria. You’re headed right for the cliffs." Shouted Marsha.
“ I’ll go around.”
“When you see them it’s too late.” Shouted Marsha. The wind was picking up and despite her mitts her fingers were so cold she could hardly hold a good grip her ice axe.
“Ah Marsha you’re just like my wimpy amigo. Jose says I‘ll kill myself cycling if I don’t use brakes. Fuck him. I love speed.”
“ Maria I cant keep up.”
“ I’ll wait for you at the bottom.”
“ You don’t know the route.”
”Marsha you’re just like my mother when I fell off the tree and smashed my arm.”
“Don’t run down the glacier there’s crevasses.”
“I took the ice axe course.”
Maria rushed towards the hidden cliffs. It started snowing heavily as Marsha ran down the glacier trying to stop Maria. Too soon Marsha was winded and stopped. Peering down gasping she blew on her whistle and shouted until she finally saw Maria’s misty figure backtracking up the glacier towards her.
“Marsha there’s cliffs below. I almost fell.”
“Damn it Maria. I told you. Be careful.”
“Careful, be Careful! That’s what the doctor said when he stitched up my leg after I crashed my mountain bike. Ho! I see the route. Meet you at the bottom. Ciao.”
On a Sunny Day Mountaineering is Quite Pleasant
Happily Maria and I survived that trip. I decided to find older slower friends for climbing companions,and to aim for sunny days (which is really just lucky days since it can snow anytime in the Pacific Coastal Mountains). On a warm day climbing is pleasant and you can lie down on the rocky ledges or in the mountain meadows, look up at the sky and feel that life is good.