Friday, July 18, 2014

this is how people disappear

I headed up through the featureless snowfield. There was a trail here someplace, but in July at nearly 10,000 feet, there was no finding it. When I did find small sections, the tread led right to a steep face, one of those "slip and you're dead" places.How badly did I want to climb this peak?

I camped here, at Upper Lake. Nobody else did, perhaps scared off by the snow. I also went for a quick swim in the ice!
I'm not a big fan of "push yourself past your comfort zone into danger" philosophy. I stray outside my comfort zone boundaries nearly every day, though few would know it because I don't act like it's a big deal. But I have decided that coming home is my job. I've been on enough search and rescue missions to know that each time someone who made a bad decision had now put our lives in danger as we looked for them. There's such a thing as determination and another called stupid. I tend to think I know the line by now.

Hmm...(I am aiming for the tallest point)
I came to a place where another intrepid explorer had paused. In large rocks he or she had written, "Went Back." Probably wise, I thought. Ahead of me, the trail disappeared into solid snow. Horton Pass and Eagle Cap Peak, my destination, towered in the distance. Just a little bit further, I thought. Then I thought: this is how people disappear. Lured onward, they make decisions that can't be undone. How do you find that line? I've managed to walk it all of my life and so I continued on.

I've always wanted to climb Eagle Cap, the peak for which this wilderness is named. Not the highest mountain in the range, but almost, you can see it from almost everywhere. Today, I decided, was that day.

The view from the top of Eagle Cap was unforgettable. A sea of mountains wherever I looked (also a lot of wildfires).

Yes I know, a braid malfunction.

Going down was a little sketchier. Had I gone down this snowfield, or that one? But I made it back to my tent safely. Walking the line, always.

Glacier Lake, still partially frozen.

Note: thanks to everyone who commented, sent me an email, or called to talk about my kitty. I appreciate it more than you know. Life without him has been very sad; I am resigned to his illness but still plagued by regrets--was he afraid or in pain, how could I leave him so much? It's such a dilemma. The wilderness is what I need, but it always means leaving someone behind.


  1. So many decisions are not clear-cut, and you keep thinking about "the road less taken." Go with your gut, or heed safety warnings? Stay with a situation/person beyond what feels sane or hope there might be change ahead? With our dog, we finally had to focus on what love meant--was it trying to keep him going in pain, so we wouldn't have to face our grief, or was it giving him peace and an end to his struggle? All we can do with decisions is the best we can at the time, and not spend too much time second-guessing ourselves. Smoke was a handsome, loved cat and I know you miss him tons.

  2. The outdoor adventurous world sometimes praises people for doing dangerous and outright stupid things by "facing our fears". I'm a firm believer that, in the outdoors, that fear where the hairs on your neck stand up, those fears aren't fear, they're instinct and one should listen to them. I turned around about a 10 min walk from the top of a once-in-a-lifetime summit in Utah last September because the icy slope gave me that same prickle of fear. Number one goal should always be to get home safely. :)

  3. Beautiful photos! Yes, I love being outdoors, exploring those places that require extra effort to find. But I'm also a big chicken, and listen to my gut. When it says "don't go there," I turn around. Being a mother to two kids (even though they're now grown) had also made me a more cautious person. I want to be around for my kids (and hopefully grandkids someday)!

  4. Glad you made it back to share such beautiful pics. The lake looks like a jewel with just a touch of frosting on its rough edges.
    So sorry about kitty. Will never forget how he kept me company each night she I visited. Take care my friend!
    PS...I will have to show Maddie your braid malfunction pic. She will love it. She does that with her braids on purpose sometimes, because she says they are unique. :)


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