Thursday, December 14, 2006
Stuck Above the Timberline.
This is as far as I made it up Mt. Hood. It was late-June, and I pulled my Jeep into the parking lot of The Timberline Lodge, got my room, unloaded my Jeep and walked upstairs to the little bar for a drink. And, as far as I was concerned, that was about as close to the summit as I needed to be. Anything after that, well... that's just nutty.
It takes a special person to climb a mountain. And, it takes a special and crazy person to climb a mountain in North America in December. After all, it takes very little for all that rain in the Pacific Northwest to turn into a ridiculous amount of snow on the slopes of Mt. Hood. In fact, when I was there some years back, the morning after my feeble attempt to summit the hotel lounge, I awoke to a thick blanket of new-fallen snow in late-June. That was just wrong in my world. And it was enough of a snowfall to make my descent from the mountain somewhat sketchy as I did my best to keep my little Jeep from turning into an out-of-control toboggan.
Now, all week, we've seen reports splashed across all the networks about the three stranded climbers who, for no other reason than the fact that the mountain was there, decided to summit this sleeping volcano in the bone-freezing cold of mid-December. I think it takes equal parts of skill and luck to climb to a snow-capped peak. And, no matter how accomplished a climber is, Mother Nature is a capricious beast, and no one can truly be prepared for the tantrums she throws when we try to challenge her.
The amazing thing is that humanity's desire to survive is sometimes stronger than the things Mother Nature tosses at us, and, amazingly, I still believe the drama unfolding on the slopes of Mount Hood will end with those three climbers finding their way back to The Timberline Lodge.