CT #20: Wilderness

When hiking, rock climbing, and mountaineering are depicted in pop culture, the emphasis is usually on empowerment, on accomplishing something and feeling good about it.

As I’ve said before, one of my favorite things about being around mountains is getting a sense of how very human-sized I am in a very magnificent world.

My hike began 20-some miles and 5000 feet of elevation ago — not insignificant sums when you’re at 10-13,000 feet — and, all day long, I experienced the raw power, and the beauty, of nature. I woke up to a widespread frost, and I worked to keep myself warm as I began to walk.

My first climb of the day was to the saddle of San Luis, a rocky behemoth. From that rise, the world was barren, wind-blown and weathered into a lifeless rock. I zipped up my jacket and descended, grateful when I saw the greens of trees and grasses again.

Next, I climbed over San Luis Pass to the saddle of Peak 13,111. There, I worried as the clouds began to build, and the wind whipped around me as I worked to stay on trail. And, above me was a mountain, a very tall mountain whose name is merely its height.

I climbed in and out of a valley a couple of times and then climbed all the way up to Snow Mesa. Along the way, most appropriately, it snowed. I pulled my hood around my face and put on my gloves.

Then, it was time for the long, exposed walk across the Mesa. I was alone, without another human as far as I could see. Beyond the Mesa’s edge, a whole range of peaks rose, periwinkle against the pink sky of evening. Rain fell in bursts to my left and right, but I stayed dry, alone, and quiet in the vast wilderness I was so privileged to get to walk in.

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