Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Barren Peak pt. 2

The trail was a lot easier. I could move and look out with my shemagh wrapped around my face. Now the sun was out and we weren’t in the shadows. We tried to head away. But at some point you are just going up. And then we are running right towards the great yellow globe. And it will burn you. Icarus was a fool, I mutter to myself. I shouldn’t let the story make me think any better. Because I could burn, and I squint up towards the light and then back down. Brian has taken a lead way ahead so I strap back into my feet and legs and get moving.

As we move along the trail it is pretty flat. Sparse junipers mark the surrounding area with a vertical tumble on the left and the range’s face to the right. I keep my face down most of the time just wanting to rest every 10 minutes. But we press on and Brian likes to remark how some of these trees are about 2,000 years old. I look at them and can’t even think what 2,000 years of living. If I’m lucky I’ll get to 70. If I’m out of my mind to 100. The amount of lifetimes that tree lives is ridiculous. And it just sits there with the day and night, as it pleases, passing by like a goddamn whim. That tree is something I think. And we end up going through a switchback and back up instead of straight.

As we start the climb up I look around and notice how sparse things are getting. As we get higher and higher it becomes a theme. In fact, at one point past the devil’s thumb, there is nothing but shale and sunlight. There is no hiding from the yellow and the rock makes you think of barren deserts. It gets cold and windy.

Devil’s Thumb comes quickly. After a rest we look at it. It pokes out of the trail and range just like a thumb. The story goes that two friends went up to devil’s thumb one day. One friend snuck a shotgun into his pack. When they got to the point and rested he shot his friend and killed him. The murder of Devil’s Thumb. I sort of look around. I want to know what a place where someone has died looks like. But it is just wind, rocks, and trees. There is some vertical cliff face and a lot of gray with clouds in the sky. Its so quiet I can’t even hear life. We are slowly moving away from anything living. And maybe that’s the thing about this spot. The great silence that sits on it. On its haunches just looking out towards the sky and desert. All the purple beneath it. Death sort of shakes it head back and forth and inhabits the spot. Maybe that’s what this place is. But for now that image only lasts a minute and I go into this rendition of a rainy night on the mountain. One of the friends is shouting at the other and then he pulls out the shotgun. He begins to cry and then shoots his friend in the chest. The body tumbles down the mountain where, it won’t be found until 1 month later. Bones picked so they shine white in the daylight. And the teeth are in a frown. The man is gone and he wanders the range eating nuts and drinking from streams. The tale of Devil’s Thumb I suppose.

We move past and take refugee among rocks where the final ascent towards the top begins. From here we will be in open climbing almost vertical. Lifting our feet towards the sky. Even dragging them to get through the thin air. Its like sharp ice and it cuts in your lungs. I couldn’t even imagine doing it in the winter. My lungs would become cut and bleed. The blood would spit from my mouth and I’d die at the top. It makes me shudder. While we rest I drink water and eats nuts. Slowly looking below. Starting from the top near the horizon and moving my eyes down until I’m looking at strange fields of colors. It doesn’t register at first but it is nearing autumn and the leaves on the aspens and birches are starting to change. The yellow and orange dips playfully through a series of wild movements. It makes a strange snake below. Like it is looking for food. A mouse or a fox. It moves quickly and trails out and down. And out and down the colors fade and are replaced again by the desert. Brian finishes the preparations and we move back out and towards the top.

We start the ascent and it’s barren. There are no people here with us. Just the wind and our footsteps. Each one becomes harder than the next and it feels like the entire ascent takes just as long as everything else we did before. Each switchback cuts into me. The great mess of shale lies neatly along the face of the mountain. When I saw it all from far away it seemed razor thin. Now the path is wider and is secure. I keep myself wrapped and concentrate and moving to each resting point. Brian sticks his poles in the ground and I follow. Every so often he points to a rock. The rock has a hole where it looks like someone took a drill and bore down into it. “It’s a lighting strike he says.” The path up is littered with rocks like this. I think about how long lighting has been hitting this mountain. And then how long these rocks have just sat here. It’s so long. I have to shake it off of me. We make it to the peak.

From here at the top a flag waves and there is a weather station. The wind blows. As we walk further there is a giant hole in the ground. Here we station ourselves to rest for a bout an hour. Eating lunch and talking to the few people that have made it up. At the top it is beautiful. We are in the sky. We are touching the sky and clouds are here. The elevation is 12,000 feet and things are so clear that it hurts my eyes. Standing at the top gives a view of the entire world below. It almost feels like seeing the entire state all at once. We are in the middle and it stretches out alongside all sides. The land is so small and quiet. Pahrump and Las Vegas are both there. Far along stretches the border to California and there are no mountains higher here. We stand and in the light there is nothing but everything. And the simple beauty of the mountain touches everyone’s eyes. We sign our names in a box and then prepare our things for the way down.


i'm not the kind of lover that's easy to forget.

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