Up the Summit without a Flashlight

Whether by necessity or convention, solo ‘pears to be my style. At least two hundred times by now, in my fervor to reach the summit and put that pin in my raised relief maps, I found myself victorious atop the precipice right at dusk.

My website fronts-piece photo, indeed, was taken a mere 20 strides from the topmost crag of 13,890′ Mt Agassiz, Sierra Nevada in 2013, and though I had a flashlight on this occasion of course it didn’t work, and I actually became lost quite awhile around the third lake down, having to backtrack again and again to re-find the Bishop Pass Trail.

On nights when there was full moon, no problem. In these mountains of Southern California, given all the ambient light from all the encompassing hyper-urbanization, no problem. (Such as photo above, taken from 6100’ San Gabriel Peak above Pasadena.) But getting down from peaks like Burgess in BC’s Yoho, or Rio Grande Pyramid, on moonless and overcast nights when even the faint light of the stars couldn’t peer through, deep in the cedar hemlock rainforests, or those doleful Rocky Mountain lodgepole stands never-ending more like Dante’s forest of suicides, it was a biscuit! Hope I don’t stumble off a rock into precipice, or poke out an eyeball on a spruce branch. I would spend eight hours or more literally crawling my way down, singing lullabies to the cougars and black bears. And Virgil only knows what else.

Hardly were these dark descents even the worst of my mountaineering horrors and woes – lo, for instance, there were the electrical storms I’d always seem to find myself trapped underneath above the timberline – but such are the subjects for future blogs…