The snow bank loomed into sight as we rounded the bend on a hewn dirt road. The snowbank was impassable in Parker's white ford explorer, and it immediately but just barely dampened our spirits. It was there, just as the stubby and stubble faced ranger had said, about three miles out from the beginning of the Mt. Adams trail head.
Shit. Shit was what I said through a long sigh as thoughts of an additional six miles sank into my pores. Had there been no snowbank impeding our passage, we could have shaved off those extra six miles under our burdensome and spine crushing loads that we were just about to meet. I
looked over at Cole, the other tank of the squad (tank = person weighing more than 180 lbs), and chuckled while shaking my head. We were not about to turn around.
It was a little after 2pm when we finally embarked, walking like giant tortoises clad in the North Face gear, very much hauling our homes on our backs. Like the stallions of fitness and endurance that we were, we breaked about two miles into our trip to enjoy our last decent meal which was not freeze dried or require boiling water to consume.
So it was with ingested sandwiches, and after Nighthawks dance of booty clapping (for which we were not making it rain $10's, 5's or singles of any currency), that we began anew. From that point we kept a pretty consistent pace on a steep grade that never declined. We would break
every 25 minutes or so to take water and catch our breath. Water very quickly took on that indescribably nourishing taste it gets when you are exhausted, and I would feel immediately invigorated after drinking it. Needless to say, our water supplies dwindled fast. The sun had long been on its retreat behind the west face of the mountain and shadows had begun to stretch. We were just getting out of the treeline and the landscape felt barren and alone. Scabs of rock lay cut out of the snowy blanket which lay beneath out feet, and it blasted the landscape with white. The four of us were hard, with gritty resolves in comparison to other gentrified, perhaps saner members of city dwelling society; yet even in our perceived toughness, we were just beginning to know the power of that mountain and the weapons in its' arsenal.
Base camp was reached around 9pm, after roughly 7 hours of hiking and gaining 5,000 ft of elevation. I unclasped that bag holding all my gear, that bag of pain, and threw it down on the dusty and porous volcanic rock that would serve as our bed. I swayed gently there, taking in the
oxygen thin air with slow and controlled breaths. I had never known such relief in shedding a burden. Tents were pitched involving no flow of blood to the loins, and we cocooned ourselves in our warmest clothes. The suns warm caress had now left us, and in its stead were 40mph gusts of winds very constant in nature. I even went as far as to putting on goggles as the aforementioned gusts would pick up dirt and dust and find a charming way of depositing it in our eyes.
Shelter was increasingly important as darkness set in, so we quickly put together our tents. Cole and I, (the two tanks) appropriately shared one which was quickly dubbed "the bear den," while Parker and Corey shared one which I will now name
"the string cheese incident" due mainly just to Parker's whiteness, flexibility and uncanny ability to come apart in strands. We gathered behind a rock wall that partially blocked the wind. There was an exchange of heated grunts and snarls between Parker and Cole:
Cole!!! Whatntha shit are you doin?!?!?! Your stove is worthless!!!
Im regjjgigschmorky tent!!!! Gimmie a Goddamgringolfat econd!!!
The wind made it impossible to understand what Cole was saying. The issue lay in the fact that Cole was solely focusing on playing house and putting his tent booties on, where Parker was struggling with Coles' stove that would melt snow for water and allow us to eat food. The four of us had each consumed almost all of our water supply, and we had to melt snow (purified with iodine tablets) for the next days water. Huddled together amidst rocks and dirt, in the swirling wind, we derived what enjoyment we could from our freeze dried food. The stars had come out of their secret hiding places and they waxed and waned with a calm brilliance. Despite the extreme discomfort of the situation, I very much savored the moment. I knew an immediate bond was forming between the Arctic Fox, White Ghost, Nighthawk and Wolfman while we endured those conditions together. We all retired to our tents shortly after to get out of the wind around 10:30pm, knowing full well we had to wake up in 6 hours around 4:30am if we wanted to summit.
The night was basically sleepless on those jutting rocks and wind that had me believing we were going to be swept off the side of the mountain and cast away into oblivion. It was truly a night deflowered and pillaged of good rest...calling to mind a few nights of near comparison that I will not go into. As it always seems, right when the beckoning call of sleep seems barely audible, someones voice was rousing us back to waking light and life. I laid there in my sleeping bag
buried in layers of fabric and insulation, shoulder to shoulder with Cole, coming to grips with my reality. For a few minutes I stared into the ceiling of that tent, still turbulently being accosted by the wind, enjoying the masochism of the moment: Frigid temps, howling wind, rocks under my back, a harrier man than myself cuddled up alongside me. I strangely savor those painful moments.
Time to get up. Breakfast came out of a box entitled "Chicken Boo-yah," in all seriousness, and was heated to moderate coldness due to malfunctions in the heating process. It tasted horrible, yet I still wolfed it down knowing that every calorie would count. I heeded not what the other members of the crew ate or did, being so focused on my own motivational issues that morning.
After strapping on our boots and metal spiked crampons which looked like they belonged in some medieval cage of mortal combat, we set off around 6am. The 2nd of 3 stages lay ahead of us and of the details I will no longer speak. I will offer that three of the four of us summitted 6
hours later reaching 12,276 ft. Cole perished around 10,000 feet. Because we ate him. We accomplished our goals, and with reaching the pinnacle of anything, whether it be mountain, a skill, ones life, it felt incredible. A kind of incredible that bursts slowly with an endorphin high. A kind of incredible which comes from being on top of the world with your friends. It took a special drive, a ferocious mental resolve, and just a little bit of old fashioned craziness to reach the top. (Huge striated and bulging muscles and the lungs of a gnar whale are also needed).
Some folks who are accustomed to a life of soft luxuries might wonder or ask why do such a thing of such hard, difficult and unpleasant requirements. I do it, in part, simply because those tasks are there to be done, lending to the old and maybe annoying philosophy of "why not?" I get joy out of doing those tasks because they are not normal and in my opinion, the less normality one has in their life, the more interesting their life is. In other words, normality and the degree of interest in ones life are negatively correlated. What saves me from sounding like a jackass is that I realize that there probably isn't anything more subjective than what people define as interesting and normal to them.
Of the trip I enjoyed the staggering and stark beauty, the eerie silence of the mountain, the bonding with friends, the taking of shits in nature. What I loved about it is how feats of endurance force you to be mentally and physically tough (with a special emphasis on mental toughness). Putting one foot in front of the other, even though your lungs are screaming, you feel lightheaded, and your fingers are going numb....for hour after hour. You persevere and make it to the top in the face of all those deterrents. After pushing ourselves to the limit, we touched the snowy crown of Mt. Adams which sat aloft its' height thousands of feet high. We won, and the confidence from that victory still courses through my veins giving me the desire to execute the next task of non-normality. Wolfman out.