31 years ago, lakeside—in the burgeoning morning twilight on the first day of summer—a small wedding party climbed into a couple of rickety wicker baskets attached by rope to hot air balloons. With a deafening blast and flame, they ascended in unison...earth shrinking, love expanding...smiles all around. An acrophobic Justice of the Peace wondered out loud why in Christ's name he ever agreed to this gig.
So what better way to commemorate our anniversary than ascend again; only this time, with feet firmly planted on the ground...more or less.
It's late June, but it follows a winter that showed up for a change. I know we will encounter snow on the way to Abram's summit because I can see it from our house, long fingered couloirs full of "white plague," streaking down it's north face.
A couple hundred yards from the truck our couloir to Heaven is filled with snow, more than I've ever witnessed on the first day of summer. But instead of foe, it was friend...soft enough to get a "bite," firm enough to not break through. We made good time getting to the ridge...less than an hour, despite psychotic verticality that would render whimpers from our Justice of the Peace, had he been along.
|Exiting the couloir: Up-to-the-task Sue, followed by Too-tall Kay, followed by Wonder Woman Bobbie|
Eventually the snow-ladder steepens to the point where footing is problematic. We bail onto a steep slope of tundra; it, too, is a ladder. Old Man of the Mountain flowers pop along the way...little diversions that take minds off smoking glutes and the fire in quads and lungs. About this time it occurs to me that maybe this is why we have so few friends. Hmmm, something to ponder...
|There seems to be a lack of leadership...or is it a lack of follower-ship?|
Finally the ridge is gained. Red Mountains, full of grace and glory, enough to tear the eye of this grown man. Ungrateful Bastard that I am, I want more...a few puffy white clouds, please, but hold the lightening.
We adjust the route, trying to avoid snow. It's not a problem, really, but the detours add to the distance and elevational gain/loss.
Finally, running the ridge, our objective comes into view: Mount Abram.
|Another detour...lest we slide down the wrong side of the mountain|
It's a lovely ridge, full of color. Lavender volcanic tuff, sprinkled with brilliant orange lichen...
Kay remarks: We keep hiking, hiking, hiking, but it doesn't seem like we're getting closer. It does feel that way; distance, distorted by the size of the "room." The "detours" don't help, nor do all the ups and downs inherent in running ridge lines.
We get funneled to the one place I was worried about, a place where "the sun don't shine," so to speak. Snow still clings for it's life in the shade of a lichen speckled section of vertical rock. It's too steep to climb up or down to get around; we must cross, slowly, carefully. Since I'm the one with the biggest feet, I volunteer to carve a track, footsteps for the rest to follow in, not that anyone would ever want to do that.
We take a break before the final push up Mount Abram's tundra slope. It's steep, of course, which keeps the crowds to a minimum. We have the whole hike and mountain summit to ourselves, friends, alone, appreciating the luck of living where we do. Is it luck, I wonder? No, not for me. I made a conscious decision to one day live in Ouray in the form of a pledge to my father. We were sitting around a campfire above Lovely Ouray, poking at coals and opening up about secret dreams and other private things that get un-muted by liquor and flames that lick the night. I turned to my dad, it was almost a whisper: "I can promise you this; one day I will live in Ouray, Colorado." He looked at me, said, "I believe you."
He died one month later.
It took year to get my shit together. I was devastated.What's the point? But the dream didn't die...the promise smoldered like the coals in that campfire.
One year later, I'm crossing Kansas bucking a crosswind, eyes welling with tears, headed "home." The one person I wanted to see that promise kept was gone. Somehow I hoped he knew.