Why do we climb mountains? To see what’s on the other side? To stand on top? To achieve a personal goal? To sweat, and do something physically difficult? Because it’s fun? Or simply because it’s there.
Without sounding like a cliche, climbing peaks has a lot of metaphors for life. There is prep, commitment, effort, and sometimes adversity. Do we push on in the face of storms, or turn back (to try again another day)?
Do we avoid climbing peaks because it’s difficult, or do we climb mountains for precisely that reason?
Sometime over the summer I got the bug to finish climbing the tallest peaks near our home in the Tahoe. We’ve hit more than half of them- many numerous times. Today, we were headed for Mt. Rose, elevation 10,770′.
On the day we climbed Mt. Rose, we were lucky enough to have one of those rare experiences that make you feel truly alive.
We started our adventure, by playing in the lake with Daisy Trail Dog under beautiful blue skies. Swimming makes her spunky, and it’s always important to keep your dog cool on long hikes.
Mountain weather changes quickly, and dramatic clouds started rolling in soon after we hit the trail.
On our final push for the summit, we emerged from tree cover to an exposed scree field at 10,300′. We could see sheets of rain in the distance rolling toward us. With less than a mile to go, we put on all our layers and kept pushing for the summit, ready to turn and run if lightning chased us down.
The rain came, blown almost horizontal from the wind. Then came hail, making a racket on the hoods of our jackets. With her thick black coat, Daisy Trail Dog was indifferent to the weather.
“Keep going?,” H asked.
“Keep going,” I said. I was watching the horizon for lightning strikes, keenly aware that we were atop the highest peak in the area with no trees or cover. It was raining where we were, but shafts of sun were coming through in the valley next to us.
We trucked along as fast as we could. I stopped only long enough to wipe the raindrops off the lens of my camera to snap a few photos here and there.
H was 100-yards ahead of me as we wound along the spine of the ridge for the summit. I was digging under my jacket for an inch of dry clothing to wipe the camera lens.
“WOW!!!!,” H shouts as she turns the corner.
As I turn, the sky cleared for a minute and H was walking into a massive double rainbow just as we hit the summit.
We are miles away from the car, soaking wet, in cold blowing rain, with numb fingers and toes. Yet, atop Mt. Rose at 10,770′, there is no where else I’d rather be at this moment.
Intense visceral experiences make you feel truly alive. Heat. Cold. Sweat. Sometimes pain. Sometimes failure.
Ten thousand episodes of “reality” TV can never match the experience of standing atop your own mountain- whatever that is.
We spent less than five minutes on the top, snapping a few photos before turning back and moving as fast as we could across the wet, rocky trail. Clouds rolled through, and at times H and Daisy were only faintly visible less than 50-yards away.
Moments later the clouds broke and we were treated to unbelievable views.
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It is late afternoon and the “magic hour” of fall sunsets is here.
As we descend back to the trailhead, puddles and water flowing down the trail indicate that it rained much harder here than on the summit. We had made the right choice. Had we turned around, we’d have been drenched in a downpour without reaching the summit. We’ve made our fair share of mistakes in trying to second guess the weather. Today we guessed right and were treated to an unbelievable show.
The CoasttoMountain blog has evolved over the last year and a half. Despite infrequent updates, I’ve managed to attract over 2,000 subscribers, and tens of thousands of views. This blog originated in our crazy outdoor adventures. Together, we’ve had decades of awesome, visceral, off the beaten path adventures. The blog was an idea to share our love of the outdoors and of having intense experiences. Thousands of memories, thousands of miles, thousands of photos. The goal of this blog as always is to inspire you to stand atop your own mountain; to have those experiences burned into your memories.
So get out there, find your mountain…