Being this high on the mountain spoils you.
Essentially inside the crater formed by Mt. Hood’s last eruption, we are cradled by the mountain. The sound of glaciers groaning. The stench of sulfur carried on whisps of steam gurgling from somewhere deep beneath your feet. The summit seems touchable. Wind-blown ice sculptures dot the landscape in impossibly complex formations. The 4,000 ft mountains below are a vast array of little crinkles and lakes whose green bleeds gently into the increasing reds and browns of the desert to the east.
There are others. From this vantage, three other major peaks of the Cascades stand snow-capped, beckoning in the distance.
I used to need to be near mountains. Now I need to climb them.
Skiing in a skirt and tank top is a sensation second only to immersing oneself naked into a warm sea. And since I live in Oregon, the latter sensation has not been experienced in way too many years.
Last week in Portland, it was cold and raining. Reports of a Typhoon from Asia promised to bring more wind, more rain, down trees.
I checked the temperature. 53 degrees at sea level: there’d be snow in the mountains.
The storm itself was ample reason to go outside and play. I convinced a friend to head to the coast, watch the storm roll in and attempt to surf it - or at least splash around in the ocean. He’s the sort of friend who was in the coast guard, and used to gallivant around saving the lives of people drowning at sea, so it seemed a perfectly safe endeavor.
He’s also the sort of friend who is only a friend because he has declared that we will never be more. Crushed, I am grateful for an adventure buddy. Admittedly, it makes adventures more difficult when your heart stops in the presence of your adventure buddy.
But none of this is relevant. Point is: he dissed me. Backed out, no surfing. Apologized. I said “make it up to me; let’s climb and ski next weekend” He could not. I cried (maybe). And I went scrounging for an alternative companion to go climb a mountain with.
And so…. to the mountain!
I love the looks people give when it’s warm and sunny out and you are carrying skis.
My skins have seen better days. Unfortunately, not from over use: their stick is diminished and dog-haired. (“Skins” stick on to the bottom of your skis, so you can climb up without the typical backward sliding induced by waxy bottoms.)
1,000 feet of elevation gained per hour is a pretty decent pace. And coming on the heals of the most sedentary year of my existence (startup life = 100 hours working week), I was impressed I could still maintain that clip.
At the top of the highest lift at the still-closed ski resort, there were other climbers, taking their skins off and ready to descend. I tended to my forming blisters. We kept climbing. “We” include me, and some guy I met on OK Cupid, to whom I said “I’m not interested in dating, I’m just seeking mountaineers for backcountry ski adventures.” He bought in, mostly. As evidenced by the glean in his eye and the texts afterwards, he was optimistic for more.
At about 9,500 feet the wind kicked up, arctic cold chill that it carried across my skin.
More layers. More jerky and Cliff shots. More climbing.
At 10,000 I called it. First time in ski boots in 4 months, arches screaming, blisters growing. I assume the descent will be painful and tomorrow even worse.
The biting chill and high winds is enough to make one forget to sit still and revel in the magic of this place.
Meandering on a trail has lost much of it’s allure when I know I could perhaps be up here instead. That is pathetic. But this is extraordinary.
And then, we descend.
My laughter and shrieks of joy echo across the frozen landscape as we speedily traverse the entirety of the mountains southern face. The snow is delightfully perfect.
By the time we get down to 8,000 feet, it’s almost 1pm. It’s approx 45 degrees down here, with blazing sun. The delicious powder has morphed to mushier ‘mashed potato’ consistency snow. The descent becomes slower, devoid of jumping.
We hook up with a group of snow boarders.
“First turns of the season?” I ask.
“Well… first turns on this continent.” one replies. “I was an instructor in Chili this summer. $26 an hour for ski instructors, you know.”
Goal: get back to work. Get this startup thing funded. Save the world. And if it all crumbles, go be a ski instructor in Chili next summer.
A good perch
A different perspective
Farmers Market, a taste of local flavors.
Wealth in any community comes from its people and their efforts to beautify every member.
Rain's finally here again, after one of the hottest summers I've had in the city, a comfort of home.
...and this is how I found out Ornette Coleman has died...
We started the walk in bright sun and a light breeze. I convinced myself that the dark clouds in the distance were blowing away from us. I was wrong. Wet dog, wet human.
Graffiti and Ghost Signs