Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Answer Is: Climb a Mountain

It almost doesn't matter what the question is (what color should I paint the dining room? is a 401k better than a high-yield CD? Latte or mocha?), this is almost always a good answer. I have always loved to climb, there's something wonderful about looking up toward the top of a peak and knowing you will stand on top of it. Then, when you do, you can see how far you traveled and everything you overcame to get there. It's a very convenient and much-used metaphor for triathlon, or any goal in life really. But the mountain is the real deal.

Not that I'm much of a climber, my foray into serious mountains was interrupted by a pregnancy shortly after summiting my first 6,000 meter peak. This was fortunate, really, because right after that I had an opportunity to join Scott Fischer's 1996 Everest expedition. Yeah, that one. The mere fact that people with as skimpy climbing experience as I've got were able to join was enough to scare me away, and the pregnancy sealed the deal. I will most likely never scale old Chomolungma, though I'd like to try my hand at Denali someday if the opportunity presents.

But today, such lofty peaks were not available. Today's question (to which the answer was "climb a mountain") was "What do I do with the 45 free minutes I have during my daughter's horseback riding lesson?" Without a mountain in sight, a 2,000 foot butte had to do. After this week's freakishly warm weather, it was actually snowing as I started out, and the forest turned into whirling gusts of devilish white, and then the sun broke out and lit up all of the lacy branches of the vine maples in sparkling loveliness.

In some areas of the planet, I'm sure it snows enough that snow gets boring, routine, an everyday visual if not an outright nuisance. Here, it's cause for major celebration, a break from the usual coldish rain that means winter in the Pacific Northwest. And because it's so rare, we get to experience anew how wonderful it really is. The dance of the tiny crystals, the white against the dark green of firs and light green of ferns, the hush that falls with the snowflakes turns everything to magic. Since I was the only person crazy enough to be on the mountain in a snowstorm, I got to experience all of this in sensory-soaked wonder by myself.

As I descended quickly down the trail (you have to hustle to make it up and back this particular 3-mile trail in 45 minutes), I picked up enough snow to make a snowball for my daughter. But, by the time I made it down to the elevation of the stables, it had mostly melted. It was like presenting her with a snow pearl more than a snowball, but she gasped in amazement all the same.

Tonight, the flakes are falling in abundance down here at 300 feet and the kids are anxiously hoping again for that mythical big snowfall that comes so rarely to our neck of the woods. I'll be shaken out of bed and stumble around dispensing boots and gloves, friends will call and come over to huck snowballs at each other, joyous chaos will ensue, and there won't be time for mountains or even small buttes in their solitary splendor, and that will be just fine. I had my mountain today.

1 comment:

TriGirl 40 said...

Gorgeous pictures! Thanks for sharing - especially as it is looking unlikely we'll be getting any white stuff this year!