Sunday, December 17, 2006
Stairway To Heaven
Websters New Collegiate Dictionary: Heaven, 1: The expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome...
On my 14th birthday I climbed Mount St. Helens for the first time, before it blew. I climbed it again on another route, as well as Mt. Thielson, the Middle and South Sister and Mt. Hood. By the time I got to Hood, I was well prepared. I had almost drowned in the Boy Scouts and nearly fell into a crevasse on South Sister. I was seventeen years old, skipped school and my afternoon job to climb Hood with two friends.
One friend was so inexperianced, we had to lace up his crampons (mountaineering spikes) for him. We made it to the top and peered over the north side.
Let me tell you, of all the other mountains, Hood has a bad-ass drop-off on the north. I carefully backed away from the edge after looking over. Most people climb the south side. In fact, it is often refered to as the most climbed mountain in the world, next to Mt. Fuji in Japan, which has a train going to the top.
It was the on the north face that three climbers went missing this week. One body has been recovered, and the search continues for the other two who may still be alive.
I've been on the top of mountains, and seen earth-bound views most people have never seen. Likewise, I've seen "The expanse of space that seems to be over the earth like a dome". Future generations may never experiance the same things.
For these reasons, I feel for both the lost climbers and their families. These guys are experts. They have climbed in Alaska, South America and here on the west coast. They were well prepared with supplies, and the two remaining climbers may yet be found.
There are two points I would like to make about this search; the first is, I have worked in the deep woods to the point of exaustion. I know how it feels, it took me a quart of beer, two spoon-fulls of honey and an elk steak too pull out of it.
Second is: When these events occur, there is often an outcry about regulation of climbers and compensation for rescues.
I say to hell with that. We will never keep people off the mountains, and as far as rescues, that is what our National Guard is for. Many of the rescue people are voluntary climbers, who are well trained and are self-funded.
I would rather have the National Guard working floods, forest fires and mountain rescues than protecting Halliburton oil projects in Iraq.
I can imagine looking down that steep north face again, and I would not want to be there now. It's a daring and tough climb this time of the year. These men knew what they were up against, let's hope we get the other guys back safe...