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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Male Mentalpause on Mount Abrams

Weather, partly cloudy and dry. Flowers, scattered and few. Tundra, crunches like corn flakes. Sweat, evaporates before it breaks surface. Mindset, alone...just me and a near thirteen thousand foot Mountain, grappling with our love-hate relationship. Mountains high are my "Stairways to Heaven," and out here, Heaven has a price. On Mount Abrams it's a punishing 45 degree angle of ascent—the ultimate Thigh Master. I should know, it's one of my sanctuaries of worship.

Mount Abrams draws a double-take on the drive from Ridgway to Lovely Ouray; it resembles the greatest of the Great Pyramids. Abrams fills a prime notch of skyline above our humble crevice-town, between lesser mountain knaves who would in a heartbeat pilfer its eye commanding center of attention. How does that old Shakespearian adage go, "If you want to stand out from the crowd, stand alone?" 

I've studied all of Abrams moods from the comfort of my living room, from alpenglow, to surly, to shimmering light wars between double rainbows. Typical male. There is an exquisite symmetry to the north face, its features chiseled and ruggedly handsome like a young Kirk Douglas. Abrams is there to be adored and wandered, and I am here to bid its calling. 

Looking back on the long, long "stairway to heaven" 
I had to let Robert Plant go it alone halfway up the "Stairway to Heaven." It seems The Mountain had requested all my singing breath to please muster in the "quad" area; I was definitely feeling the "Lead" in my "Zeppelin," if you know what I mean. 

There's not really a trail to follow in order to gain Abrams lofty ridge line, just an unflashy, steep, rocky drainage with a dribbling stream not worthy of a Goretex upgrade. I jettisoned left into a bone dry side gully once the saddle came into view, and polished off the last flight with a flurry of adrenaline. What a relief to finally be on the ridge...to have survived this years first cardiac "stress test." 

I looked at my watch; damn, under forty minutes. Don't ask why I time physical endeavors and I'll tell you no lies. Ok, I'll tell you anyway...just to see if it makes as much sense to you as it does to me. Type B personalities might want to skip the next couple paragraphs as they will make your eyes roll. 

In a nutshell, I like to know where I stand fitness wise. But, now that I'm well into my 60's, there is another reason. I want to know if (maybe "when" is a better word) I've reached the beginning of the end of physical triumphs. I want to know so I can savor and cherish each and every one as a possible "finale," a moment to remember when, well, when I can't put the peddle to the metal anymore (sniff). 

Age related decline is insidious—a sneaky, thieving little bastard that I work hard at fending off. One sip of my morning "spinach smoothy" will tell you just how serious I take beating back Father Time. Clocking summits and bike rides, still shooting for "personal bests," are not neuroses, they are really no different than you getting on the bathroom scale, pinching an inch of midriff, or taking your blood pressure. It's a number that gives us information about how were doing. In this day and age humans need "pop tests" once in a while, or else they won't do their "homework." I figure as long as I can gain Abrams ridge line in thirty-some minutes, climb Twin Peaks under an hour and thirty, power hike from home to Oak Creek in forty minutes, I don't need no stinking stress test. 

I strode the connecting ridge line between Brown Mountain and Abrams, gentle undulations of purple volcanic tuff, orange and green lichen speckled rocks, and soil white as snow. How beautiful. 

Bobbie and I are of one mind, that we would prefer to depart this life on a mountain—preferably a notable ascent like Abrams—to die reaching beyond our grasp (epitaph copyright pending). It's a "flip of the coin" as to whether climbing mountains shortens or prolongs life. Sometimes "shit happens" when you lace up boots; sometimes it happens when you get behind the wheel. Life is at best a crapshoot; ask anyone in NYC or Boston, or on Everest. We've always tried to emphasize "quality" over "quantity;" easy to the point of flippant to say when one is young and fit...sobering at an age when one loses friends thought to be healthy and impervious to old Grim. We are not endowed with crystal balls. We can't know for certain if we will be one of the fortunate few lucky enough to maintain quality and quantity right up to the end. Like Jack Lemmon said in Grumpy Old Men: "He died in his sleep." To which Walter Matthau replies, "In his sleep? . . . lucky bastard."

Personally, I'm not too excited about the possibility of outliving my options to be active and mobile. I don't want to sit in pee and watch TV all day, at least that's how I feel now. The trick is in sticking to your guns, which is hard to do when you can't remember where you put the damned things. 

Riding the broad, friendly Brown/Abrams ridge. There are several interesting and colorful places when the light is right. I hung around, watching as intermittent shadows cast from dry-as-cottonball clouds danced across the landscapes.

Can you feel the vortex...pulling you down?

From the summit looking north...Lovely Ouray, cradled in her crevice. Looking south, the always spectacular Red Mountains...flexing their iron oxide.

On the descent I snapped this photo of a snow dotted line that marks the return route along Mount Abrams ridge.

Now if you will indulge my obsession with volatile colors, vortexes, earth flows, rock formations, light, shadow, flowers, and exposure...


  1. Laverne here:

    Thanks Mark, this is why I love Ouray...this is what makes it Lovely...this, and people like you and Bobbie...We are all so fortunate that you call it home, and you share it with all.

  2. Yes, I am missing the west so much! Hopefully, this will be our last trip east for a while. It will be a long year!!

    Again, those photos are beyond beautiful. I love the reddish lichen. I don't recall see any quite that red. And I am in love with the Red Mountains. I can't wait to see them.

    I will remember your offer to take us above when we finally return. Meantime, I have to hike through you and Hans and Lisa:) Enjoy and be careful out there alone.

  3. You said it Mark, do what we enjoy, be healthy and die in our sleep.
    Thanks for those awesome pictures again!

  4. Your words and photos made this seem like we were hiking right there with you. Except that our thighs didn't burn and we didn't even breathe hard going up!

  5. Oh boy, sometimes I think you are way too hard on yourself.

    Mentally, physically, energetically, and creatively you and the Mrs are outliers and doing so much better than most in your age group or even younger. You seem to be able to accomplish more in a week than I can in a month.

    I know you have concerns and even a few aches and pains, but for the most part, I see you two as positive role models for many of us especially when it comes to living a conscious, active, creative and fit lifestyle. Good on ya!

  6. Stupendous photos. I admire your stamina and strength on those hikes.

  7. I wish I had the determination that you have to get out there. I am using the heat, and humidity and wind as excuses not to be out doing something everyday. I occasionally will go out bike riding early in the morning when it is only in the 80's, but I do not get out nearly enough. I am feeling very out of shape while reading your blog posts.

  8. OK, I'm going to stop commenting on your photos because they're always amazing... ;-) Do you carry a digital SLR or a smaller "point and shoot" camera when you hike?

    Wow, I'm impressed by your stamina for hiking. I need to get back into shape. Baby steps, Cheryl - baby steps.

    I've started making a smoothie every a.m. with this pea protein stuff called Alive - with almond milk, a small banana, and frozen blueberries. Care to share the recipe for your smoothie?

  9. Oh Mark & Bobbie, you are the poster children for fitness (in the age group from 30-70) -scamps

  10. Fabulous photos, took me right up there with you. That looks like a beast of a climb...one I'm glad you didn't suggest while we were there!

    You and Bobbie put Hans and I to shame with your excellent physical abilities. Good on you! Thanks for being motivating role models!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  11. WOW! One of these days we will make it to Ouray. A photographers paradise! The photos of the wild flowers are just amazing.

    Trying to stay fit both physically and mentally is a challenge. You and Bobbie seem to be doing all the right things.

  12. Beautiful shot with the columbine in the foreground and the shadow on the mountain in the distance. Makes me want to jump in the car and come on out! Keep testing the limits of age, Mark, who wants to die in front of the TV if they don't have to?

  13. I am new to your blog, picked it up from another blogger I read. Looks like I am marking you down as a fave and looking forward to future posts and out of this world pics.
    Your comments on age and measuring what you do only to gauge how much you have left in the tank definitely hit a cord with me since I do it too!
    Having been a competitive athlete all my life, age shows up more noticeable when you track your fitness level.
    Suffice it to say however, that at 56 I am in better shape than most 20 year olds which in this day in age isn't saying much!
    Obviously you are doing great and its people like you that serve as my inspiration!
    Looking forward to some more great posts!


  14. Anon G,
    And your comment inspires me...to keep it up, both the blog and mountain challenges. Aging isn't for sissies, but playing offense is better than defense. Thanks for your kind words,


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