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High on the Mountain: (a billybuc writing challenge entry)

Updated on September 3, 2016

Perhaps a mountain top experience

To be a part of is every man's desire. To be a part of the mountain is reserved for the few.
To be a part of is every man's desire. To be a part of the mountain is reserved for the few. | Source

Don't blame me!

Bill Holland that wonderful rabble rouser issued a challenge for fiction writers. Something I am not. But I know Bill, he will bring in any stray animal that shows up. Well I am scratching at his door, so I know he will let me in if I promise not to chase the chickens and quail. There are rules to this, but I don't need no stinking badges. Find the challenge here: http://hubpages.com/literature/A-Writing-Challenge-Are-You-Up-For-It

Let us jump right in.

You could say they were a motley crew but you would be wrong. They were just good old country boys from a small town and they were going places. From 18 to 22 years of age they were. One was graduating from college Cum Laude, another had already had a ski shop that was making it. One at only 22 already had a doctorate and two were pro circuit downhill ski racers. All of them had successfully rowed the mighty Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They were all skilled in rappelling and high level mountain climbing. They came from good families and worked hard and respected elders and all life around them. Come to think of it they all attended college on scholarships from academic to athletics.

Well today was not just another day. They gathered at a log cabin in a bottle. Well not really a bottle an old barn. Mostly together but on just one of their dimes they cut and shaped the logs they cut down and hauled. They actually built a full log cabin inside an old weathered barn. I don’t know why but it seemed like a cool idea at the time. Now forty years later both still stand. It stood at 7,000 ft., the same elevation as the town. Which was really there just because of logging and the railroad. Stuff of the past as the train cars sat as though already buried alive.

Today they would ride a chairlift up to about 9,600 ft. The ascent up to 12,600 to the peak of the mountain. Hard icepack, glacier like snow stuck to most of the surface of the mountain. It was basically about 3,000 ft. of an enormous shear ice death trap. A missed step would more likely mean death than survival. But not to worry they had all done it dozens of times growing up. A rope like you see mountain climbers use between them in a line for safety was not used. Well three guys had tried that 10 years prior and instead of one dying they all did, so the concept was not even considered. These boys would all be carrying about 40 lbs. of gear including skis to ski the inner basin of the mountain on the other side. About 12 miles of backcountry skiing in avalanche country.

Do not judge a cabin by it's cover!

The corn and potato fields were gone during WWII
The corn and potato fields were gone during WWII | Source

Well you know I had to put this music in.

From the earth to the earth.

Did I mention that one of the gang was a Navajo Indian? Great guy that they all grew up playing ball with. To the Navajo this was a sacred mountain. Actually a corner of their world – like a real corner.

(About this time, you the reader are wondering why the dancing around with naming the location and the players. Well I will leave you to decide what is fact here and what is fiction. So I will leave out proper names to protect the innocent, or not so innocent.)

The game plan was simple and they went over it in the log cabin which was near freezing inside. That was on purpose. Otherwise everyone would have to strip down out of the mountaineering clothing and gear. You see one of the quickest ways of freezing your tuckus off is to stand indoors with your jackets and such on and start to sweat and then go back into the freezing weather. In this case a mere 2 below. Don’t even go there with a wind and chill factor.

Here is the deal. They were to gather around and eat a full handful of peyote. Maybe one of the most dangerous natural hallucinogens in the world. Definitely tainted with Strychnine which adds to it’s formidable strength. The Navajo had collected the peyote on the reservation. There was also some kind of shaman spell put on it. Within three hours it is normal to vomit quite violently. This blood rush to the brain actually intensifies the effect and there is something in regurgitation that really sets it off.

Last journey

Then the urn was brought out and placed in the center of a ring. Not a word was said. Pent up emotions said all that needed to be said. The little brother of one in the crew had had a parachute malfunction when jumping into the great Alaskan wilderness. It was time to spread his ashes on the mountain peak he loved so much. Well now the hurry was on full bore. Timing was everything. Too much into the warmth of the day and the hike became way too dangerous as the melt would create a surface just too damn slippery to climb. To damn early and you were likely to catch jet streams. Jet streams are rivers of wind in the sky up at about 10,000 feet that can reach well over 100 mph. I reckon to a low lander city folk this is totally insane. But hey this is just the environment these guys grew up in.

The easy part.

Now four pieces of equipment were passed out after being charged all night. Avalanche transceivers (beacons) were first. This sends out an electronic signal that shows where you are if covered by snow from and avalanche. Then radios (walkie talkies) with multiple bands. And then cell phones. Yes these probably are futile where these guys were going. Poisk oxygen systems because there is little air at over 12,000 ft. Although these are really only used in the case of some distress. These items are kept by one caretaker rather than by the individual so that they are double checked when passed out.

Nothing left to do. The longest hardest trail is climbed by one step at a time. So out they go. Dawn is still not breaking. It is that time of day/night when winds seldom blow as the earth has calmed my the total freeze of darkness over night. They drive from 7,000 ft. to about 9,500 ft. Collect their gear and load up on a chairlift they have paid money to start up early for their one way trip. Hoar frost covers every exposed thing and quickly forms on beards and eyebrows. Goggles are in place as the slightest wind at this subzero temperature can literally freeze an eyeball. The ride up is filled with good cheer and exhilaration. The end of the chair ride drops them at the last fairly unexposed point in their trip. From here one can see 300 miles but the sun which is showing a bit of light is on the other side of the mountain and will not be seen until reaching the summit.

Can there be danger ahead and yet peace where you stand?

Not a grave site for the men of the mountain

Perhaps for others but not for men who's spirit lives on.
Perhaps for others but not for men who's spirit lives on. | Source

Shall they begin?

Oh yea you guessed it. The retching has begun. Almost simultaneously the effects of the peyote have set in. This takes about 10 minutes as the crew is basically incapacitated. It is all part of the ritual. They are now standing on sacred land. The standard “cramp on”, a set of spikes attached to the boot to hold in ice are not used as the snow they climb is so vertical only their toes will dig into the ice. A special kind of reverse spur is affixed to the toe to make “kicking in” easier and more effective. It will be like climbing slippery made as you go stairs from this point on. At this point there is an adjustment period. To the lack of air. To the drop in temperature to around 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. And to the drug. It takes just a few moments while stretching exercises are done and equipment is double checked in a buddy system.

The effect is such a connection and focus on nature and the elements as to be a oneness. Colors and textures come nearly alive. Fluidness of motion without nervous tension occurs. And in this environment man is not the intruder but a part of. Done correctly this is not a “see things that are not there” drug. This is an extreme senses awareness in reality “experience”. It is from a plant grown only in the wild by itself. And if the participant is also fully grounded in the earth it is a synergism. And this holy of holy grounds create the perfect mix of man and nature.

The real ascent begins. Adrenaline on high. Deep half the oxygen breaths. Yes some butterflies inside. The leader for this stretch is 6 ft. 6 inches tall a former football player for a major university and once considered the most valuable athlete by his entire state. He swings a mean pick axe into the ice pack a mere 2 ft. from his face as the mountain is near vertical at this stage. He carves out the toe holds the others will use. It is exhausting brutal work. The danger of exhaustion and building up a heavy sweat means another will take his place in just about 15 minutes. His little brother at a shrimpy 6 ft 2 inches. A man with an early doctorate and many pro skiing accolades. Sometimes a back country guide out of helicopters in the highs of the Bugaboos Canadian Rockies. Dang it a carabiner is dropped by number 3 and it falls, just missing number 6 which could be fatal, 100 ft before touching ice – it is that steep

Old things just die. Old souls just return to the mountain.

The train that brought human life to the area, is cast aside as it's use ends.
The train that brought human life to the area, is cast aside as it's use ends. | Source

As close to flight a natural man can reach.

3 hours later 3,000 ft. have been mastered and they stand at a peak higher than anything for 5 hundred miles. The sun is rising from a horizon 200 miles away and 10,000 feet lower in elevation. On a near spiritual understanding no pictures are taken, but snapshots in the mind click like a high speed automatic camera. There is great exhilaration and a great feeling of accomplishment. For the most part this is only shared by the man and his God. Silence rules the day. The calm winds here are a constant 45 mph. One turns away from them to catch their breath. “Let’s do this” is shouted nearly in unison and Skis are put on, another quick buddy check of gear. Off the cliff made of ice the leader for this stretch goes. A celebratory yell, at about the 25 ft mark of a freefall of 60 ft. before he even lands number 2 launches and so on. Each member upon impact with the drift snow below submerges for two turns of the skis about two hundred feet. They reach an interior summit within the great inner basin. All accounted for and healthy with one facial cut from a tree branch.

The ashes are now strewn. More oxygen at this elevation. Much excited talk. A flask of 20 year old whiskey is passed. Hugs are given. High fives all the way around. Some energy bars consumed along with needed hydrating water. A pact is made to do this again in five years and every five years thereafter. It will be honored. The ski out will be another 5 thousand vertical feet and about 9 miles. For mere mortals a hell of a trip in itself. For the men “high on the mountain” just one more death defying trip to be followed by many more.

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    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lawrence I have been to 3 mountain top experiences of the theologic kind and they were great. I have been hit by a 120 mph wind on a mountain that you could literally not breathe through. Of course it is hard to breathe at 14,00 feet anyway. I heard someone once say that near death experiences bring us a step closer to God. I will go to 12.500 next week. I do not think I will get closer to God, but for sure closer to death.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 10 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      The story reminded me when I used to go hiking in the Snowdon national park (Snowdonia). The mountains aren't high there, but the weather can literally turn in minutes!

      One time we climbed a peak in gorgeous sunshine, but when we got to the top, it was a full blown blizzard on the other side!

      Great memories though

      Lawrence

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 10 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lawrence, truth be told I lost two friends on that mountain. I say "lost" and I should not. Ice slab crushes and avalanches. I am reminded of my mortality and not to waste it on a couch. We go hiking the redrocks and Grand Canyon this month. I am already breathing hard ;-)

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 10 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      Sign me up! Especially for the skiing, I haven't done any for about twenty five years but the trip sounds awesome (and way beyond my abilities, but that never stopped me before!)

      Awesome story.

      Lawrence

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Manatita, My eldest son in fact writes poetry and songs that do fairly well in the Bay Area. My youngest and I are just starting with the fun learning of making words rhyme. Perhaps once again I will learn from my children.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 months ago from london

      A nice chuckle for me this morning. If your wife likes your poetry, then it's great! Maybe the children will too. Have a great and loving weekend, my Brother Eric.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I totally plead the 5th or is that the 4th?

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 11 months ago from San Diego California

      I love your stream of consciousness writing. Sounds like a little place I have passed through called Flagstaff, with Humphrey's peak towering overhead.

      I think Peyote is only legal for religious purposes, but then again you are a preacher, so I guess it's all good in the hood. Great work.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hi Dianna, I don't claim to understand it but the concept of a Mountain Top experience is very real.

      Thank you for coming by and supporting me.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 11 months ago

      Your writing is creative and shows well here. You put together the challenge nicely. I could visualize the mountain top experience. I remember feeling this way when I took a chair lift up the steep mountain side in the Rockies.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Ruby, I sure enjoyed writing this. Complacency in writing is not my friend. I reckon I usually need some pain before I grow. I have this really tough legal writing project that is haunting me. I better just buckle down and get into it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 11 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I'm running late due to family visiting, but I loved your story. It seemed so real. I have a strong feeling that you've been up on that mountain and had a nip of that 20 year old whiskey. Wooah! I love how you tell it like it is and make no excuses. God was always with you, it is evident in this piece...Now, I hope you are going to write more fiction, or nonfiction, either one will be great..Best wishes...

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bronwen I know just what you are talking about. There was a summer that I thought I would just go ahead and be a Bronc rider. It ended badly with getting bucked off and landing on my coccyc boy did those cowboys have a good laugh at my expense.

      The first thing we teach in skiing is how to fall down and get up. Only then do we teach you about breaks ;-)

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 11 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for such an enjoyable read. I went skiing with our family once. Going uphill was fine, but downhill! The things had no brakes! Broke my tailbone and gave up skiing. Obviously, although it's fiction you know what you're writing about.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So nice of you to join me today Chitrangada. Today is a holiday here so my son and I will take off to climb a much smaller mountain. We are blessed to have such an opportunity.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 11 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Wonderful response and I enjoyed your story!

      Very creative and does not seem that you don't write fiction often. You have all the characteristics of a creative writer and I admire you for your insightful hubs.

      Thanks for sharing this!

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      What a great thing for me to read this morning. It will spur me on. Thank you. My wife, last night, as she was sorting and throwing things out, came across love poetry I wrote to her while were separated by the Pacific Ocean.

      Not so good, except in her eyes.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 months ago from london

      Yes, it is not at the forefront of my mind, but you have mentioned it before. As for poetry, you're welcome Bro. Come on board! You and I, together on the sunrise-road... not success or failure; not victory or defeat. Let our goal be progress...self-transcendence. We shall succeed!

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Manatita, you write with such love that suggestions from you come as exhortations to do well. I wonder if it could be that I wrote this for purely selfish reasons. To try and spread my wings lest I be stuck in the nest of my own comfort zone?

      While non would know except a very few, my long term niche is in ghost writing legal briefs, complaints and other legal documents for lawyers.

      Watch out for I may try my hand at poetry ;-)

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Devika -- I hope that you will get some hubs in soon. I miss your bright perspective on things. Thanks for coming by.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 months ago from london

      Indeed. Your Heart speaks in your Sermons. Chris's (Cam) Heart speaks in his Flash. Many great contributions here. I'm sure you'll do well if you pursue this, as your command of the written word is already flawless, if one can say such a thing.

      Read Chris's and Austin Starr's contributions. Many good ones here, but theirs stand out. Just my view. I've read most, but not all. Love and best wishes to your wife and kids.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 11 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great challenge and you certainly caught my eye.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      thanks Clive.

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 11 months ago from Nibiru

      love the challenge

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ann, you make me happy this day while I am finishing up my sermon. Yes the drug part carries with it the stigma of the addict and ghetto kids shooting up on the corner and the evilness of trafficking. It was hard for me to get across the huge difference between that and the use here. You have a good point.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill as you already know, you really inspire me. Thank you.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Manatita, very nice of you to lend a critique. I certainly understand and respect and consider your input. What a great journey writing is.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 11 months ago from SW England

      What do you mean, not a fiction writer? You certainly are, Eric. Loved the energy in this. The cold was all around me, the exhilaration was in my bones and the 'high' was infectious. Daring to defy the mountain, but for a cause - you have to have faith to do that I think; not necessarily the drug part though, but then I suppose it goes together in this story. I'm rambling!

      Well done, Eric! Great response to Bill's challenge. Oh yes, and I loved the title!!

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 11 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Look at you, jumping into the fiction deep end, and without a life jacket. LOL I love that you took part in this challenge, Eric. Thanks a ton.

      I will file this and review it after the deadline.

      Again, I love it...and I love your introductory paragraph about taking in strays.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 11 months ago from london

      A noble effort and at least you're ahead of me, so great and nice of you to try.

      You know how much I love your Sermons. It's like your special niche. This story here is different and perhaps marginally too long and missing something. Please forgive me. I like to be sincere with my friends. You seem to have put a lot into it and that's encouraging.

      Not a bad start at all. Continue ... Much Love.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      John I have to tell you that I did not put this on Facebook. My two big brothers and many buddies back home would be laughing their butts off at me. My knowledge of such pales in comparison to theirs.

      But they might, just might, be pointing some fingers at just who is who in the story.

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Shyron. I must admit to doing some crazy stuff like that. Writing it got me a little anxious through the memories. Perhaps folks who live like that are just another form of addict. Adrenaline junkies as we say.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 11 months ago from Queensland Australia

      One major difference between your story and mine, Eric, is that it is clear yours is written by someone who has climbed mountains and skied, whereas mine wasn't. Your technical expertise and engaging writing style shows through. Well done.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 11 months ago from Texas

      I was holding my breath all the way up and down that mountain, what a climb and what a way down. Awesome story Eric.

      Glad you are on board.

      Blessings my friend

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Ms. Reaper. I got myself caught up in it. My life has been so blessed that looking back on some of it, I truly think I am making it up.

      This time of year on HP has me thinking of you and hoping you are again a Hubbie award winner.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 11 months ago from southern USA

      You are a writer ...period! And a great one at that, no matter what you write, dear Eric.

      This is a mighty fine response to Bill's mountain challenge. I agree with Cam, for when it is memorable, then you know it is great writing. That is the true test. I won't be forgetting this one. Your attention to detail is great and you don't get bogged down, which also makes the writing excellent.

      What a thrilling "mountain high" tale here you have created, and I knew there is a mixture of truth and fiction, but I think all fiction comes from some truth somewhere.

      Bravo!

    • Ericdierker profile image
      Author

      Eric Dierker 11 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Excuse me, but I just had to go out and do some fist pumps in the air. Positive reinforcement from my favorite fiction writer really feels good. Thank you. There is a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 11 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Stop telling us you aren't a fiction writer. You may not do it all the time, but Eric, my friend, you are a fiction writer. The details made the story real and believable for me. I'm glad you didn't give these men names. I would have gotten lost in all of them. I remember your other fiction story very well, and I will remember this one. When a story is memorable, that means something. Well done, Eric.