Eric's Response to Bill's Challenge: Woman on the Mountaintop. Just What is a Mountaintop experience anyway.
The first challenge for little old challenged me was figuring just how to get this photo onto my hub.
The base of the mountain was only 7,000 feet and at it's pinnacle just a shade under 13,000 feet in elevation. A chairlift takes hundreds of people a day up to about 10,500. At this altitude warnings are given for the lack of oxygen. Hard exercise at this elevation is reserved for the few who make it their business to make a living here. No folks with heart disease allowed and overweight people better do their sightseeing and leave fast. At the top of the mountain only the hardiest of the hardy can do much more than get there and then get out. At that elevation it is 5 deep breathes for each step taken going up.
Well me, I was born there and worked hard at the upper elevations. We trained hard at around 9500 feet elevation and frequented the higher elevations. My gal Jo moved to these parts about 20 years ago and was in fine shape and could easily make the mountain treks and skiing at the highest of altitudes. We had both spent time as professional Alpine skiers and we were adept at mountaineering, survival and search and rescue.
The day had started in the dark like so many full winter days. In the town it was snowing like it had been for 3 days and it had that stillness and quiet of a land covered in a blanket of pure white snow. The weather was a balmy 19 degrees out and so snowflakes came down as large as dollar pancakes and would collect on your eyebrows and eyelids like the suds from a frosty beer collects on your mustache. First things first was to "shovel out" and get the old diesel fired up for the 14 mile trip to the base lodge of the mountain. It would be a slippery trip as yesterday the weather had gotten up to just above freezing so a sheet of ice would be below the foot of snow that fell overnight. As we used to say "slipperier that warm goose shit" and believe me that is slippery.
I can stand on mountains for she raises me up.
Today we would ride the chairlift up and then hike to the summit.
I would tell you that doing a mountaineering trip to about 13,000 feet takes a lot of preparation. And for a low lander city slicker that would be true. But for locals it is really just a matter of putting on the right clothes that are in your closet and throwing your gear in the back of the pickup truck. Sure you got your ropes and first aid and things like crampons and ice axes and goggles and survival food but heck you never take those out of the truck in winter. Not having them would be like a lawyer going to court naked -- it just ain't done on a good day. I am not saying you can't have bad days but we are talking "normally" here.
So we caught the first run of the morning skiing then got back on the lift with our packs and began our ascent to the summit. The clouds had left and it was on and off again sunny with a view to die for, if you know what I mean. Just enough cloud cover for contrast but not gloomy like an old black and white photo. The view was a good hundred miles and further.
There had been so much snow that the notion was to use crampons and ski poles for the final 2500 hundred foot climb. Some black volcanic rock showed through where wind shears of 100 mph had cleared the mountain of snow, and anything worth growing save the vaunted Bristle cone pine. Soon we were in tundra and above tree line. The air was thin to say the least.
All kinds of mountaintops
We were going straight up. This is how straight up: If you stood sideways to the mountain and picked up your down hill foot and stuck it sideways there would be four feet of open space before ground. Just do the same thing on a stairway and you will see about a foot. So this was steep. We opted for a close tether line with Jo going first and me four feet behind. A good fall at this juncture would mean death. And a tether line of over four feet could would allow the person falling to gain enough momentum to pull both down.
It only took two hours to reach the summit. It is void of snow as the wind sheers that hit it reach well over 100 mph and blow any snow away.The view from the top was of course 360 degrees and would allow over two hundred miles of sight. Looking down on clouds and looking up into purity and what must be the heavens.
Jo just cannot help herself and she dances like a school girl at Junior High prom as though it was her first time being free. Of course I can only join her with a little two step jig.
Now we are both quiet, holding hands and contemplating the descent. I cannot fully explain it but I cannot figure what is more glorious, the view of the world from here or the view of my life companion, best friend and wife Jo, But I do know that there are two mountaintops right here, One that I can reach with every bit of my bodily will. And one of a special bond between two that lifts me high enough to touch heaven with my heart. Thank you God and thank you Jo.
I think Bill had some rules here. I admit I do not know what they were.