THE CASCADES, Mt. Hood, Summit

THE CASCADES
Mt. Hood, Summit

We tend to think of mountains as enduring features. Here today, here tomorrow, here always. Mt. St. Helens reminds us that this is not necessarily the case. It is only by virtue of our relatively short life-spans that the volcanoes of the Northwest appear tranquil and dormant. The geologic record is one of nearly continuous eruptions, explosions, avalanches, debris flows and other catastrophic events. More...








Notes
THE CASCADES, Mt. Hood, Summit

We tend to think of mountains as enduring features. Here today, here tomorrow, here always. Mt. St. Helens reminds us that this is not the case. It is only by virtue of our relatively short life-spans that the volcanoes of the Northwest appear tranquil and dormant. The geologic record is one of nearly continuous eruptions, explosions, avalanches, debris flows and other catastrophic events.

My thoughts wander as I plod up the crusty snowfield above Timberline Lodge. To the east dawn whispers to the weary night sky. No headlamp is necessary. A bright moon illuminates the landscape; its muted light adding an ethereal accent to the mountain. Crunch... crunch... crunch.

Ski lift towers and chairs loom man-made and metallic in the stark light. Having choked on Mt. St. Helens' ash while climbing Mt. Rainier, it is not difficult for me to imagine the lift's twisted remains buried in smoking volcanic effluent. The mountain confides, "In time... in time."

Sunrise. The mountain is real! It casts a triangular shadow on an ocean of low clouds. To the south, a towering cumulus grows with the energy of the new day. Nearby a vent emits steam and taints the air with a sulfurous thread. The summit finds me.

To climb a mountain is to move from one world into another. Climbing a mountain solo is to explore not only the mountain, but the nooks and crannies of one's self. You alone define the experience, and set the rules. You choose the day, the route, the equipment, and the style of the ascent. You can only cheat yourself.

For this freedom you must embrace the risk and accept personal responsibility for your decisions.

Note: On this weekday climb of Mt. Hood I saw no one on the ascent, summit, or the descent until near the ski lifts.

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