The High Sierra

I suppose one could live in the Eastern Sierra and not be a mountain climber, but looking up at the peaks soaring above, it’s hard not to feel that inner tug of wondering what it would be like to stand on top of at least some of them.

I’m a pretty unlikely mountain climber. I’m short and don’t have the best sense of balance, but like the wolves we climb with, I have a lot of heart. And I can tell you with a great deal of assurance that each and every peak that I’ve conquered–and it’s pushing 150–holds a special place in my heart and mind.

My husband is a mountain climber too, but he’s a real one, having climbed over seven hundred peaks all over the world. Where I look at an airy crossing and think–albeit fleetingly–about the consequences of a missed step, he seems oblivious to the potential dangers.

One of the main lessons from mountain climbing is one truly has to live in the moment. There’s no point in focusing on a distant summit, and also no point in engaging in mental machinations such as, “Well, if it took me three hours to get to here, there’s no way I can summit this peak and get back before dark.” I can’t even begin to estimate the numbers of climbs that have found us heading back to camp by headlamp. But it’s all part of the draw. Nothing quite like sitting down after a fifteen hour day and eating crackers and cheese, knowing your sleeping bag isn’t far.

The mountains keep it simple. Walking/climbing. Eating. Sleeping. Losing yourself in beauty. All the inconsequentials drop away, and I can truly live in the moment. Modern life has stripped so much away. My trips to the mountains help me reclaim my humanity. Who I am. And how I can be better.