Lao Tzu

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sanford Russell

Ups and Downs...

I’m no technical climber but I do enjoy a mountain hike now and then. My ascents have always been relatively mild and safe, never anything technical.
When I was very young, idling with nothing better to do than wait around for a boat to Germany, some of us killed time fooling around with pole climbing. Our "instructor" was a daredevil bike rider and fearless mountaineer who had not too long before broken his leg in three places from a fall of only six feet (when his spikes pulled out of a rotten pole). The lesson I took from that story is that going up isn't the problem, it's getting down safely that's the challenge.
I've known two people who froze going up a slope. You may know Kissing Camels, the gorgeous red sandstone formation in Colorado Spring’s Garden of the Gods. Nowadays you can't go up without ropes (and a permit) but the first few years that I was there climbing was unrestricted. Kent, Lloyd, Nikki and I thought to spend an afternoon going up, which was OK until Lloyd or someone thought it would be fun to take along a young lady flatlander. She got as far as the chimney and refused - couldn't - go up or down. I was already down with Nikki before I learned that the others had to bring her down bodily.
Another time in Boulder some roommates agreed to take a totally inexperienced Harvard grad on a technical climb up the Flatirons (tall and steep, humungous uplifted rock formations) using ropes and pitons. Now, I'm told that the Flatirons isn't exactly an easy climb even for the experienced. The poor fellow froze midway and had to be brought down. Nobody wanted to talk much about it afterwards but I doubt that it was a very easy descent.
Thunderstorms on a mountain aren't trivial, in my opinion. Once while coming down Long's Peak a fierce thunderstorm broke over us that several times sent Elmo's fire along our backpacks. Beautiful it was but one experience of that sort does it for me. Some of the "kids" I knew in Boulder, Colorado, used to wait for thunderstorms, rush up the mountain and wave metal poles and rods around hoping they'd light up. That wasn't my idea of fun, although I'm sure it was exciting.
In spite of what I’ve just said I still enjoy going up and down, for me it’s all the fun. I’ve never lingered on top. You can't truly see a mountain from on top - they're lots prettier from a distance. Now, if you want to see valleys and gentle slopes that’s a different story.

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