A late summer day

– A summer day in our mountains –

Hurricane Ridge – some fall colors are already showing.

It was a gorgeous mid September day in our mountains, climbing with new friends, showing them our paradise. They were in continuous awe like kids. It had never crossed their minds to climb up steep rock, and it was a pure joy to guide them and see them quickly gaining confidence, find themselves doing things they would never have dreamed they could. Sometimes this works out as if it was meant to be. I typically don’t enjoy the role of a guide much. It so inevitably brings up the problem of authority with all its pitfalls. But sometimes it is just unencumbered sharing; informal, intuitive, spontaneous.

I liked it when they were spontaneously ready to change their mind, abandon their carefully planned long hike and follow us complete strangers with the crazy suggestion to climb up this formidable mountain. When they obviously enjoyed not only the breathtaking views but even more the newly learned skills it all did not feel like giving them something but rather like receiving their happiness.

 It’s always fun to scramble up this ridge.

 The Strait of Juan de Fuca, the San Juan Islands, Mt. Baker (80 miles away), the Dungeness Spit, and home: Sequim.

 Going down from the summit, half drunk from all the views and exposure, Parvin took them on an easier, longer route, while I rushed down on another route that ends in a spectacular descent on a very steep, loose scree slope.

 (I somehow love to crash down such treacherous loose slopes, sliding, jumping, kicking off avalanches and half-floating with them down in a violent cascade. It’s a continuous more or less controlled fall, or rather a wild deliberate guided tumble. You fall, half catch yourself, only to almost fall again and on and on. The thing is to not really resist the fall but only guide it, steer it. Once you are going you clearly cannot just stop whenever you like; that is of course part of the challenge and part of the fun. At first it wears you out big time, because you are in fear and resist all the time, but when you practice this it gets easy and surprisingly safe. It helps a lot to wear thick gloves! It is a bit like skiing, but of course not nearly as elegant. And – I have to admit – you can hurt yourself, and you do get dirty, for sure. Some mountains – especially in the European Alps – have those half-a-mile long alluvial fans of 50 and more degrees made up of fairly round small rocks; running down those is like dancing on a waterfall. I knew someone who did it on skies, but that is truly crazy – you get way too fast, and the skies hardly survive more than one run.)

 Steep gravel shoots ideal for spectacular descents. Cadini – Dolomiti, Northern Italy, ca. 1976.


Practicing: Skiing on nothing but boots.   ca. 1976

 * * * 

When I came down with all the noise and dust two deer jumped up at the end of the shoot and fled. I sat down to let the adrenaline dissipate and wait about half an hour for Parvin and friends to come down and meet me there. In a few minutes, together with the dust, the silence settled over the valley again and the deep peace of the mountains returned. The deer stood in some distance and looked at me; their spot, where I had disturbed them, was only a stone’s throw away. My breath calmed down, my mind was happy and quiet. The deer walked around undecidedly, but it was obvious they wanted to return to their spot. Slowly, bit by bit, they both came climbing up directly toward me, looking, probing, sniffing the air for my smell, 30 feet away from me. “I’m sorry I made such a mess, it’s ok now, I’ll behave, you can come back.” As if they could read my mind the first one finally took a deep breath – I could really see this – came up all the way and lay down with a loud grunt less than 15 feet next to me. The other quickly followed. All the tension was gone, I heard them breathing slowly, it gradually melded with my own breath, I felt the sun warm on my skin and sank into a deep meditation.


 I got cautiously up when we – the deer and me – heard the others coming; this time I managed to not disturb the peace. We went on together and took a long rest on our ‘magic meadow‘.

  * * *

                                                                     Klaus mid September  2010

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