Archive for 2009.October

+ true alpine style

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

I am surrounded by darkness, excepting the distant city lights of Portland and Hood River. Cloaked by the darkness, the land falls away steeply to the right, and trees and snow block the view to my left. Piercing beams behind me cast eerie, fleeting shadows as I press onward and upward. A scene from some nightmare? No, this is how I chose to spend my Friday evening.

Drew from our home community had some friends coming up from Texas to do a couple of Northwest climbs, and was gracious enough to invite me along for the Mt. Adams trip. We took off from Portland a little after noon, Myself finishing my work from a laptop on the way to Trout Lake. We reached the parking lot up the 12 mile forest road sometime in the late afternoon, and headed up the hill. There was some mild cloud cover around 10,000ft as we climbed, but it looked to be clearing. We hoped to make camp for the night atop the Lunch Counter, a false summit at about 9,000ft. The views as we ascended were unbelievable–including one of the most spectacular sunsets washing Mt. Hood in every color all at once.

Unfortunately the going was slower than we had hoped, and 9pm found us at about 8200 feet, having recovered the trail after some pretty interesting scrambling to gain a ridge that Drew’s knowledge of the mountain said we should be on; thank goodness he knows it so well. So after some hot cider (always a winner in the wild) and dinner, we turned in to our cozy down bags to rest up before we pushed up to the summit early the next morning.

It was probably 11:30 or midnight when the wind began to pick up, and proceed to give my tent the test of its existence. It held up, although there were several times I half drifted off to be jolted awake by the tent roof blasting down within inches of my face and springing back up. Drew even went out and re-staked the fly at one point, finding that the rocky sand was not keeping good hold of our anchors. At six, our first riser called out that visibility had gone from 100 miles to 10 feet in the last couple of hours. We were in solid whiteout conditions.

After sitting around hopefully for most of the morning, we decided around 9 that we had better head down the hill, as the wind was not ceasing the the visibility had been up and down, but never much more than 80ft. With the help of the wind and the moisture that comes with being inside the clouds, packing camp was much more interesting that setting it up, but we managed and were off by 10:00. Albeit the whiteout made it a little challenging, finding the trail in the light proved much easier, and we stuck to it on the descent, discovering from my GPS that we had essentially paralleled the trail at 50 feet for a good portion, and then cut right through the switchbacks at another. Way to go Drew!

The weather was not so kind. What started as wind and moisture in the air soon turned to cats and dogs, soaking us to the bone in spite of our high-tech gear–sweat from the inside, and rain through the necks and other openings. Back at the car, it was an foreign feeling to dry off and put on fresh clothes. Then it was off to Hood River for pub food and good beers at Full Sail.

This may sound like torture to those saner than myself, but there is something incredible about taking on the mountain in October, summit or not. The thing that I most love about backpacking or climbing is the way that you get exercise and go without all of the comforts, so distracted by the beauty of creation and the challenge that you scarcely realize. Upon returning to normal life, you regain your appreciation for things as simple as bathrooms were the wind doesn’t complicate matters, and water that you don’t have to melt in a pot. It’s almost as if the worse the conditions, the more appreciation you regain. I love the balancing effect that has for a snob like me. Not that I ever picture being truly cured of that, but it could be a lot worse.

Will I do it again? Without a doubt–until the day I lose the blessing of a fit body, working legs and lungs, and the ability to carry a pack up a trail. Thanks for getting me started, grandpa.

+ why i prefer depressing music

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

I meet with a group of guys about twice a month, and we have been reading and processing together a book by Eugene Peterson called Leap Over A Wall. While I’m a bit of a bibliophile, and so would naturally recommend any good book, this one has been exceptionally moving. Peterson spends the pages delving into and discussing the life of King David in such a profound manner–connecting us with the grimy reality and Divine redemption of the mundane, the painful, the secular, the religious, the wilderness and all the other beauty that we share in humanity.

After a wonderful weekend with family (Alyssa’s grandma Ellen came down from Seattle and her brother Avery and wife Miranda came from Spokane), Alyssa and I vegged in front of a very entertaining, yet painfully illuminating movie about a military guy recovering his daughter from a human-trafficking gang. The part of the film that was difficult was watching a fictional rendering of a reality that is present: people being forced into the most destructive and demeaning forms of slavery.  Living here comfortably, that nightmare is in some other world, and one that I would not go out of my way to encounter.

After the movie, I jumped back into my reading, and was reviewing a section in chapter 11 that talks about lamentation and grief in Davids’ life. I was struck after re-reading Peterson’s description of the poem David writes in 2 Samuel 1:19:

Beauty. Lament isn’t an animal wail, an inarticulate howl. Lament notices and attends, savors and and delights–details, images, relationships. Pain entered into, accepted, and owned can become poetry. It’s no less pain, but it’s no longer ugly.

Earlier in the text, he talks about how our culture has a great lacking of realized compassion. We have a lot of looking on with concern, but entering into and experiencing the pain and walking together is much more rare. The desensitizing rush of media that tells us about broken relationships and loss; disasters, disagreements and death. All of that without pause to recognize what and who is lost, only that there is loss. We can hardly mourn someone we don’t know from Adam, and the constant barrage of unknowns makes it even more difficult to enter into and experience grief that is real and close to us. It’s not that we have to directly know the parties to give them some dignity; in fact, David actually decreed that the entire nation learn the song he wrote for Jonathan and Saul. The idea that I’m wrestling with is how we can truly be compassionate and honor both the grief near to us and tragedies that aren’t so near.

I’ve always found myself drawn most to music that is ‘depressing;’ sounds like Guster, Dashboard Confessional, and other emo, girlfriend-missing, best friend-betrayed, peer-disowned artists who find their expressions of pain owned in song. Maybe that is just my way of compensating personally for what seems a lack of expressions that deal with and honor loss in our culture.