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The Ghost Mountain Adventure (a short story)
Bill Holland's Challenge
Our good friend and fellow writer Bill Holland (billybuc) recently issued a writing challenge. The guidelines were as follows:
"1) The title of the short story must have the word “mountain” in it, and the subject matter of the short story must be, in some way, related to the mountain in the photo.
2) There are three other photos included in this short article. Your story must, in some way, include and mention those three photos.
3) Short story….flash fiction….I don’t care. There is no word limit in this challenge, but you are limited to only one Hub article…
4) Post your entry on HubPages by September 10th.
5) You choose the genre."
As I can never pass up a challenge, or dare, I had to come up with something, and the following story is the result.
The Ghost Mountain Adventure
Kurt stuffed his backpack with everything he’d need in case of an emergency, not that he was expecting one. Half a dozen muesli bars, water, compass, thermal blanket, and solar charger for his cell phone went in.
Just as he was packing the last item away, the 4x4 Hyundai pulled up outside and honked the horn. He was excited to say the least as he raced outside, yelling goodbye to his parents but not waiting for an answer.
This would be Kurt’s first ever unguided skiing adventure. Just he, his friends, and the snowy wilderness called Ghost Mountain. It was called "Ghost Mountain" because, in the right weather conditions, the snow-capped peak resembled your stereotypical Halloween ghost i.e. like a flowing white sheet suspended in mid-air. The mist and cloud cover tended to hide the base of the mountain.
Sure he had been to the ski school at the resort with his parents where he had learnt to be a competent skier, but he had always been under the watchful eye of an instructor.
His parents were apprehensive about this trip but Kurt convinced them that he was a big boy now and could look after himself. At 17, he knew he was old enough to go off alone. He was almost an adult for God’s sake and even old enough to drive.
From the base ghost mountain looked foreboding
His two friends, Nick and Eric, called for him to hurry, “We want to get up the mountain before spring and all the snow starts to melt!” Nick joked.
Being cousins, the two had skied down Ghost Mountain once, about a year before, accompanied by their fathers (brothers). They were confident they were now experienced enough and had the common sense to do it on their own.
The boys had never driven this route to the mountain by themselves before and though they had a GPS they weren’t sure they had taken the right road. But as they passed through rich farming country Eric pointed and yelled, “There’re the old barns with the grain silos I remember from last time. Now I know we’re on the right track.”
From the base, Ghost Mountain looked foreboding, but apart from a group of three skiers who disappeared almost 25 years ago, and which still remained a mystery, the boys had never heard of any other incidents. As far as testing skiing venues, it was considered challenging but not in the "most dangerous" range.
An accessible road led to the base on the western side so they drove the 4x4 as far as they could and parked in an area that had once been a railway holding yard. There were still a number of old weathered and ghostly carriages standing silently on the long disused tracks. The boys then donned their packs; skis attached and set off to climb up the rocky face of the mountain.
It was hard going but thankfully the snow wasn’t thick on this side and they managed to make the summit around midday. The 360-degree views were spectacular and the three teenagers marvelled at the surrounding landscape before taking a brief rest from the climb and having a bite to eat to restore some energy that would be needed for their steep skiing descent.
Hunger satisfied, and energy returned, the boys waxed, then donned their skis, and set off in single file down the mountain. Eric led the way, followed closely by Nick, and Kurt bringing up the rear.
Downhill skiing is an exhilarating experience and the three friends were high on adrenalin as they raced down Ghost Mountain. They threaded their way between clumps of fir trees at the top of the mountain until they were in the clear and on the bare white slopes.
Suddenly, as though out of nowhere, a goshawk swooped on some small prey its pinpoint vision had spied from a perch high in the trees. Unfortunately, its path was directly in front of Kurt, and startled he swerved sharply to avoid colliding with the bird.
Losing his composure and balance he was thrown totally off-course and rushed out of control, catapulting up and over a sharp rise in the snow. His friends, now far in front, were oblivious to Kurt’s dilemma and continued their downhill rush to the bottom.
Kurt landed in a heap, half buried by snow, one ski snapped, and the other flew off his foot landing who knows where. The thick carpet of snow had cushioned his fall, and luckily he wasn’t hurt except for his pride.
He sat up, dusting snow from his head and shoulders, and looked around until he found the missing ski. “What will I do now?” he thought to himself but stayed calm. “I can’t go anywhere with just one good ski!” Just as he remembered his cell phone and began to remove his backpack to retrieve it, Kurt turned to look at the hidden rocky outcrop he had flown over and landed in front of. There was something sticking up through the snow at the base of the rock.
Kurt crawled over and started digging the snow away from around the object. What he found made him jump backwards and gasp!
The police snow rescue team had been quick to respond to Kurt’s 911 call and it was just before dark when the reached the spot on Ghost Mountain where he was stranded. They retrieved the skull that Kurt had inadvertently uncovered, and the team soon excavated the remainder of an intact human skeleton, and two others, buried in the snow.
Eric and Nick had freaked-out when they realised Kurt was no longer behind them, and had also phoned emergency services. They had feared the worst so were very relieved to be reunited with their friend. This had been one adventure none of the boys would ever forget, especially Kurt.
Later forensic tests revealed that the remains did, in fact belong to local men Dale Whitby, James McLeod and Leo Sharpe who went missing while skiing on Ghost Mountain in 1991. The mysterious disappearance had finally been solved, though the cause of all three deaths could not be determined. A sudden avalanche which trapped the unfortunate skiers was a possibility but unable to be proven.
The remains were buried at the base of the mountain they loved and marked by simple but identical gravestones as a memorial and a warning to future skiers and climbers of the dangers of Ghost Mountain.
Bill's Challenge Hub
- A Writing Challenge: Are You Up For It?
How about a good old-fashioned challenge/contest? Calling all writers....let's see what you're made of!
Ghost Mountain (the poem)
Rising up above the mist
Ghost Mountain's snow-capped peak,
Attracting avid skiers,
And those who adventure seek.
Some say the mountain gained its name
Because of skiers lost,
Whose souls still haunt the ragged peaks
Within the ghostly frost.
Others feel it's just a tale
To frighten and deter.
They climb Ghost Mountain without fear
That ill-fate may occur.
But history is a funny thing,
Often fact and fable blend,
And people who ignore the past
May meet a gruesome end.
© 2016 John Hansen