For apparent lack of alternatives, and thanks to a still fully charged Energizer Bunny hiking partner, I commit to the task of making Richmond Pass, climbing on, going higher and getting smaller... till shrink-wrapped like a some provisional plaything for the amusement of capricious gods.
I've said it before many times in various ways, and it bears repeating: When hiking the upper reaches of mountains in less than perfect elements... be it howling wind, dreary rain, or unexpected blizzard... one becomes more aware of their vulnerability. It is those kinds of times and places that sharpens the edge of life. The higher one goes the smaller they become, and I know of no other venue that can so abruptly reorder one's false sense of permanence and ego. Beware of the sharpened blade...
Don't get me wrong, Richmond Pass in hardly perilous as mountain destinations go. It was more "elements" than "elevation," the gusts of wind, sputters of rain, lowering clouds... dropping temps... things that alter mood and confidence in a negative way. Then add in that my legs were fried from back to back to back days of torture.
As I watched Bobbie amble off into Full Moon Gulch, aimed for a still-distant Richmond Pass, a shortlist of excuses compiled in whatever lobe of the brain it is that's responsible for self-preservation. Did I have enough clothes if a blizzard did set in? Could we find our way down if the trail was covered in snow? Would legs cooperate? I checked my phone for a signal... nope.
Nevertheless, I took up the yoke and made hast to catch my speedy soulmate. The trail became disjointed... a collection of meandering game paths judging from the track of elk who, unburdened from ego/achievement/summit compulsions of humans, go off every which way instead of beelining for the objective. Animals have no "objectives." What a life; eat, sleep, and shit. No deadlines, no time-clocks, no bosses, no pretentious compulsion to "top-out" or "check a box." Just wander and breed. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, one could do worse than making a reappearance as an elk... preferably a cow, so you don't have to fight with other bulls over sex.
Seeing that the day's objective had morphed into Richmond Pass, and feeling a surge in blood sugar from two Dark Chocolate Mint Cliff Bars, I decided to put an end to the internal muse and just get on with it.
Progress unfolded in super slow-motion, frame by frame, step by step, inch by inch. Clouds sank, guillotining heads from mountains, while cold slaps of rain stung cheeks. If a blizzard did materialize, it would be slow, slippery ride down.
|Avalanches snap trees as if toothpicks|
|The ridge-route to Hayden Mountain, 13,200 feet, give or take. No thanks, not today... been there done that from the other side. Click HERE to see a video of that climb via that ridge... lots of flowers as I remember.|
|Finally, Richmond Pass... looking east to the "Reds."|
|Looking west to Sneffles and Potosi... Blue Lakes Pass.|
|And up to Hayden Mountain... 13,200 feet, which we did from the other side earlier this summer.|
Elements and season can certainly zap a warm and fuzzy romance with mountains. I prefer flowers and green over wilting brown tundra and grass gone to seed. Winter can arrive in the mountains above timberline any moment.
We spent all of two minutes on Richmond's windy pass... wolfed down a power bar and begin the long five mile trek down to the car.
Once back in Ms Autumn's "flowers," I felt the uneasiness slip away. Even under a canopy of surly clouds and deteriorating weather, luminescent aspen leaves radiated warmth, "quaking" in the wind and lifting my spirit.
Another good day to be alive.
mark and bobbie