Saturday, June 30, 2012

Accomplishing Sunshine

A month or so ago, a writing tip on a blog caught my eye: rather than concentrating on the writing I hadn’t done today, the writer suggested, what if I kept a record of what I had accomplished? Positive thinking at its best, I thought. A revolution in state of mind: Instead of torturing myself about not writing, I could celebrate every word I put down. At the bottom of the blog, the writer directed readers to a facebook group, “Write On Build On.” Members of the group report daily on their achievements and donate a dollar a day to the charity Build On if they did not write. I applied to the group and joined.

The writers in this group report daily on their writing, but also about their life. They are there to give support and comfort to each other and admire each other’s achievements. Belonging to the group gives me structure, a feeling of more accountability, and a sense of community that I did not have before. By following the group’s chatter, I get a better perspective of how other writers work. I guess everyone lives the sinus wave: sometimes writing thousands of words a day, and sometimes editing just eight words.

Yesterday, Crystal Collier, one of the group members, nominated me on her blog for the sunshine award. The idea behind the sunshine award is to pass the love forward to other bloggers who write and inspire me, and it has three rules: 1. Thank the blogger who nominated me. 2. Answer the questions below. 3. Pass the award on to other bloggers. I loved that Crystal thought about me! Writing my blog and putting it out there, in the blogosphere, made me realize how much I want people to read my blog and comment on it. I want people to feel inspired by it, to feel more connected and less alone. Thank you Crystal for nominating me!

The Questions:
Favorite color: Changes all the time. This morning it’s yellow for sunshine and happiness.
Dolphin in Eilat
Favorite animal: I love dolphins. I love how they play in the waves, how slick they are and elegant. I love that Douglas Adams says they’re more intelligent than us. But I also love deer (so graceful! I will never tire of seeing them) and jackrabbit (so unproportional and funny-looking).
Favorite number: 1.
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Tea with milk. I think I was British in a previous life.
Facebook or Twitter: Facebook. I love connecting with people and reading about what they do. (And Crystal, I also love Goodreads. Such a great idea!)
Anemone from the Galilee
My passions: Writing, reading, the kids, my boyfriend, Hawaii, watching deer, trees, Henry Coe State Park, hiking, climbing.
Getting or giving presents: I love getting presents, but I always feel embarrassed that people went to the trouble (and cost) of getting them for me.
Favorite pattern: The oaks dotting the hillside outside my window
Favorite flower: Israeli anemones.

My nominees for the sunshine award:
Iris Wilnai
Terry Lynn Johnson
Michal Rinkevich
Lisa from ReadBreatheRelax
Beth Trissel

Thanks Crystal for nominating me! This was fun!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Near the Flatiron
Last night, Dar and I returned home from New York City. I was beyond exhausted. More even than after twelve hours climbing on the Matterhorn. My muscles twitched and my back ached from the flight. My head hurt from not having drank enough water. Forget about vacation, I thought, I just want to stay home.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines vacation as “a respite or a time of respite from something,” and “a scheduled period during which activity is suspended.” I have never taken a vacation like that. I heard rumors of people resting on the beach, reading a book and drinking margaritas. I saw pictures from my friends’ trips in which they appear to be doing exactly that. But somehow whenever I go on vacation, I never sit down.

There is so much to do, new places to go, people to see. On this visit to NYC, Dar and I wore out our shoes walking some six miles a day, enjoying the Hudson, admiring the parks, window shopping and watching people. We checked out the city’s farmers’ markets and gluten-free restaurants. We met my family for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen after going on a tour of the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Village. We walked Broadway North to South. The only time we rested was when we ate, or when we sat through (only half) a musical.

I love adventure. I love the thrill of discovering a new park, seeing a new street, eating at a new restaurant. I want to walk down the side streets and into dead-ends, just to see where they go. I like to leave the hotel early in the morning and get back late at night. And I don’t like to sit down. Not for long. And only if I have something to do, like eat or read a book, or better yet -- both at the same time.

Running ourselves rugged in New York City was good, but my favorite moment was putting down the bags and opening my arms to the wriggling, tail-wagging doggies welcoming us home. There is no place like home. No matter how many times the thorns in my backside force me up from my chair and away to the wild world outside, I just love coming home. I haven’t seen a place in the world I would rather be than right here, where I am, at my messy desk, near my open window, with my oaks growing crookedly on the hills outside.

I wish I remembered that longer. Before July is over, I will begin making plans: camping in King’s Canyon, kayaking in San Juan Islands, climbing in Inyo National Forest. I’m just going to stop calling those trips a vacation, and admit to myself that I love my home, but I also love running around. Around the corner adventure beckons, my friends, and I must heed the call. I want to, because, after all, it is mine.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Intangibility of Truth and Code Name Verity

As a child, I was fascinated by books about the holocaust. I read about the life of Hannah Senesh, the Israeli paratrooper who parachuted into Hungary and was caught and eventually executed by the Gestapo. I read accounts of children in Treblinka, the Diary of Anna Frank, and The Island on Bird Street by Uri Orlev. But when the film Schindler’s List came out, I went to watch it and discovered that my tolerance for the horrors of the holocaust has come to an end. Ever after, I concentrated on comedies, fairy tales, and other, mostly feel-good books, creating a bubble of good will and peace for myself in our crazy world.

Despite my "life is good" tendencies, however, I found it impossible to ignore Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which came up again and again in reviews since it was published in February 2012. Marjorie Ingall says in The New York Times Book Review: “Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is a fiendishly plotted mind game of a novel, the kind you have to read twice.” Thea, in her review on the blog “Book Smugglers,” calls it: “a phenomenal read” and “beautifully, painfully executed.” Ana, the other Book Smuggler, gave the book a rating 10 for perfect and wrote: “If you decide to read this book, keep a box of tissues at hand. There will be tears, and they will be sad ones. But it’s worth it, it is SO worth it.”

So of course I had to read the book. How could I avoid it?

Code Name Verity tells the story of two British girls at the time of World War II. Queenie, the narrator, parachuted into France to be a wireless operator and was caught and tortured by the gestapo. The story she writes is her confession and the story of her friend Maddie, the pilot who had flown her to France and had, so Queenie fears, been killed when her plane crashed.

Code Name Verity is not an easy book to read. Jumping between Queenie’s past in England and her present in the gestapo jail, the book moves slowly, inevitably, towards its end. Queenie is trying to buy herself more time, a little more life, before what she knows is a certain execution. The reluctance of all reviewers to give any hint as to what happens in the end (except that it is shockingly different from anything the reader expects and turns the entire novel upside down, making you want to read again to see the hints that underlie every sentence) forbade me from leaving the novel unfinished.

Poetry in prose, every word and turn of phrase important. Elizabeth Wein is a master story-teller and a superhuman plotter. The canvas she has created is as rich as life itself, the characters real and breathing. Looking back at it now, I see the novel in a series of sepia photographs, slightly faded around the edges, the truth yet surreal, and I wonder -- did I really read it or was it only a dream?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Thief of Complex Plotting

Just as I stopped complaining to myslf, a week or so ago, about not finding a really good book to read, a book that would carry me away to far lands, I picked up Megan Whalen Turner's magnificent The Thief. Sucked into the landsape of Eddis, Sounis and Attolia without a last glance behind me, I fell in love with Eugenides, the narrator, and his adventures. Three books later, and I'm worried -- Megan Whalen Turner had written four books so far, but I am not ready to say goodbye.

Turner is a master plotter. Her prose sings. Her landscape maerializes before my eyes like a movie, sometimes a grim black and white film, at other times a colorful, musical adventure. Reading her novel is like taking a deep breath and diving into the clearest water, expecting to find the bottom of the pool below, instead discovering the rich life of a sprawling reef.

Have I told you yet that I love this book?

Rich, a rich tapestry of life and intrigue, a longing for adventure, love and life, the complexitie of being -- I don't know how she did it. How do you create such a world, so alive? No wonder that in each novel's end note Turner says that the events there described are fiction, for how can one author's mind encompass so much unless it was the truth?

I have always admired composers, their ability to hear separate threads of music, themes, instruments and turn them into one cohesive, melodic piece. Mozart, for example, surely was a genius. Or Bach. Beethoven. How were they able to hold all this music together to create their perfect concertos? I had not thought about novels the same way -- yet here, in Megan Whalen Turner's work, is a symphony of voices, characters, action, threads upon threads that somehow coalesce again and again into the most amazing, unexpected conclusions, shining a new light upon every written word.

Have I told you already that I love this book?

Eugenides is flesh and blood in mythological proportions. The gods speak directly to him, giving him their answers in short, clear sentences: go to sleep, stop whining. He is elusive, strong, a master swordsman, yet fragile, with an undeniable fatal flaw. I don't want to tell you the plot of either novel, because there is no way to do that without spoiling the story. I read the first novel without an idea as to what to expect. Caught by the story, I read Eugenides' adventure as he wished to tell it, in his own order and words.

What I loved about the series: Eugenides' voice, the shifting landscape of his journey, the sea of olives, the dirtiness of prison, the arrogance of weak men, the beautiful yet cruel queen and the second, pants-wearing queen whose nose is broken. I loved the gods and their easy intervention in human life, the hidden temple, the isolation of Eddis, the friendliness of Sophos, the myths told by Eugenides and the mage. I loved the delicate, gentle love affair which slowly unfolds before the reader's eyes without ever being acknowledged. And above all, the figure of the Thief, sitting high above the city, shrouded in the darkness of the night.

Which books do you love whose story, characters, or landscape carry you far far and away like this?

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Climb -- Part II

My hands gripped the rock. My right climbing shoe barely rested on the hold while my left struggled to find some purchase. To my right, I could see a spot for my hand, but when I tried to reach it, the strain was too much. I withdrew my hand back, my feet pushing against the rock in an attempt to relieve some of the weight of my body from my hands.

“You have to move over the arete. Hang off the hold with your hands. Put your foot on the hold on the right. There’s a hold for your hand. Move your weight to the right.” Cliff showered me with directions from above.

“Shut up,” I hollered, “I’m already trying it.”

I concentrated on the rock before me, moved my right leg and foot back to the holds, and, spread-eagled, pushed off with my left foot, and suddenly I was there, on the other side, safe and sound, both my legs stable.

“Did you see me?” I screamed. “I totally did it. Did you see me? Did you see?” I scrambled up the remaining rock to Cliff’s anchor.

Now was the time for the climb to yield some of its difficulty, become easier, more enjoyable. But no. The Matterhorn was not done with us yet. We continued up a chimney, a corner, up sheer faces, over rocks that seemed placed there especially in order to block our way, until finally, I just knew: one more pitch and we’re there. The summit plateau.

“I don’t need to go to the summit,” I told Cliff. “I just want to get down.”

“I know exactly what you mean," Cliff answered, “but I think we have to get over the summit in order to go down.”

The summit plateau was not flat
The summit plateau looked like a badly-built dry wall of single-placed mismatched boulders. Cliff waited behind as I slid down one boulder into a hole created by rocks on the other side. Then he, watching his step, joined me. We repeated this pattern, moving one after the other, tied with the rope, till finally, above us, we could see the summit.

Inside a crack on the summit sits a metal box, and inside the box lies a book, the summit journal. Inside the book, in my handwriting, are written a few words: “Long day. Harder than we expected. Glad to be done. Sigal T and Cliff A. June 13th 2012.”

View from below the summit
We had finished most of our water. It had taken us three hours to get to the base of the climb and nearly six to climb the mountain. The time was 4pm, Dar was expecting us back at 5, and we still had the fearsome descent to face: the nearly vertical scree leading down to the base of the Matterhorn and the steep glacier. We sat down below the summit and finally had our lunch while trying to identify our favorite Yosemite landmarks: the Unicorn, Cathedral Peak, Mount Conness, Hetch Hetchy, maybe even Clouds Rest in the distance.

At last, back in hiking shoes, we headed down the slope. “Slowly and carefully,” I reminded myself. Cliff is experienced and safe. I was in good hands.

Later, as the sun set behind the mountains, painting them red, Dar and I sat on the rocks by Tarn Lake. Mosquitos buzzed everywhere around us, and Dar leaned toward me and gave me a kiss. “Happy year-and-a-half winkaversary, honey,” he said.

Safe and sound
I had made it. I had climbed the Matterhorn and came back alive, just in time to celebrate the eighteen-months anniversary of sending that wink on to the man I love.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Climb, Part I

Now that I’m here, my story falls apart, the words jumbled in my mind like the fragile piling of rocks that is the Matterhorn. “Rock!” I want to cry as my stumbling hands pull out yet another detail from my memory and drop it. I watch it fall down, all the way to the far-off ground, and I know there is no one there to warn. No one else is climbing the mountain today. We’re alone, Cliff and I, tied together in his green rope.

Still hopeful
After the first pitch there was no way to go but up. Retreating required leaving gear, and anyways, we were both of us expecting the climbing to get easy any moment now. Cliff kept the pitches short, wanting to stay within calling-out distance from me. I sat on one ledge and then another. Belaying him and avoiding mouse droppings as much as I could, I tried to attribute the tremblings in my body to the coolness in the shade.

On one ledge ice stalactites grew in a cave. On another ledge I watched Cliff trying to climb first one side and then another of a large, column-shaped boulder. Often he disappeared behind rock formations, pulling the rope behind him off to the side and only then above. “Is it getting easier?” I kept asking. “Is it getting easier now?”

Cliff tackling the column
On one pitch, as he climbed, Cliff told me: “You won’t be climbing the way I did.” He had raised his long, 6-foot-frame legs to the left of a crack way above his head, stretched for a hold and pulled himself up. “Ok,” I shivered below, keeping my mind on the belay, refusing to think about what I’ll do when it’s my turn next. All too soon, Cliff called, “Sigal, you’re on belay,” and it was me who had to struggle with the slippery face of the rock, me who had to scramble up the overhang, and then, in shock, me crying on the ledge above as Cliff tied me in to the anchor.

Stalactites in the cave
And then, “Sigal, you’re on belay.” Cliff’s voice came from directly above me, so close I could swear he was just behind the sheer rock that climbed up over my perch. “I won’t lie to you,” Cliff continued, “it’s really exposed. But after the first move it gets easier.” I peeked behind the arete where the rope stretched, tight, waiting for me. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I muttered. There was nowhere to go. The rock dropped down behind the arete in a straight line all the way to the ground. I was sitting on a thin sliver of a boulder on the razor-sharp nose of the arete, and Cliff expected me to leave even that farfetched feeling of safety behind, to hang off of my hands over nothing, stretch my right leg somehow to reach a hold too far for my short body, promising no hold for my left.

I swallowed, ignoring his shouted directions. I sent a prayer that the anchor is safe, and without thinking, for thinking in this case would have been too much even for my over-active brain, I swung myself across the abyss and stretched out, as far as it would go, my right leg.

To be continued....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive -- Last Chance

Evening in the High Sierra. After a surprisingly delicious dinner of gluten-free pasta, smoked salmon and steamed green beans, Dar and I lay on a boulder by the lake and watched the sun paint the Matterhorn in pink hues.

“We’ll go to sleep,” Dar said, “and you can make up your mind about climbing in the morning.”

“Cliff will be disappointed if I don’t climb,” I said, tracing in my mind the line of the north arete on the Matterhorn, certain that I will never set foot up there.

My head hurt with the heat of the day, not enough water, and the effect of the elevation. I took two advil and got into my sleeping bag, falling into a restless sleep from which I awoke frequently. The wind howled, shaking our tent and the trees outside as though trying to uproot and carry us back down to the Twin Lakes valley. All through the night, whenever I awoke, I could feel the soreness and exhaustion of my body and my mind, and I knew with certainty that I would not be climbing.

Heading out. Find my shadow
The morning dawned bright and sunny. Cliff woke us with a steaming cup of green tea and crackers and hummus for breakfast. I stretched, checking my body for signs of fatigue, but my tiredness had flown away with the night’s wind. My headache gone, I realized I wanted my adventure. The Matterhorn had been my dream for over three years, and here it stood, at my tent’s doorstep, beckoning.

“I might only walk as far as the beginning of the climb and decide to walk back,” I warned Cliff.

Cliff smiled.

The lake reflected back to me the faces of the mountains as we set out. Watching us from the lake, Dar grew smaller as we hiked farther up the steep uphill. There was no trail, just the rocks and the trees and the ridge top, and the two of us making our way through. I could feel no trace of the previous day’s exhaustion. I was strong and fit and ready for anything.

My only moment of joy
At the bottom of the glacier we strapped on our crampons and headed out. I loved every minute of it, the feeling of the snow crunching under my feet, the glow of it around me. Up and up and up we walked, making a staircase in the snow, till we reached the bottom of the Matterhorn and another slippery scree slope. There, we took off our crampons and hiked farther up, gaining more elevation, heading toward the beginning of the climb.

I looked back, searching for Tarn Lake, and wondered how we would ever get down. The glacier and the scree seemed so steep, the ridge so far. Tarn lake had disappeared as though it had never existed, and my heart quacked at the thought of all that ground.

High Sierra Climbing described the route as “not too difficult,” and rated the climb well within my abilities. I turned my attention up instead of down, tied on my climbing shoes, double-backed my harness, put Cliff on belay, and got ready for a few hours of fun.
The terror of the way down

I couldn’t have been more wrong about that.

To be continued....

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive -- Up, Up and Up

Up, up and up we walked, single file, Cliff leading, Dar following, and I struggling in the back. High Sierra Climbing describes the approach to the Matterhorn: “This is a HUGE approach that starts out pleasant and gradually gets steeper, more difficult, and less fun.” Cliff estimated that we would take five hours to hike the five miles to Tarn Lake. I felt comforted by this number. To me, it meant we were going to walk slowly. To Cliff, it was a reflection of the steep and strenuous trail.

The path climbed steadily uphill, switchbacking by a creek that stampeded down a series of waterfalls. So symbolic, I thought as I fought to keep my shoulders back under the pulling weight of the pack: Here I am, once again, walking against the current.

The trail, meandering surreptitiously
After an hour, we had covered a thousand feet in altitude and about two miles distance. I quickly calculated: fifteen hundred feet in altitude and three miles to go. Not too bad, I thought. Everything is going to be okay. But the trail flattened, meandering in a lovely meadow by the creek, seemingly forgetting the “HUGE approach” promised in the book. I relaxed, let my guard down, started to enjoy the walk.

We had lunch on some rocks, basking in the sun, listening to the gushing creek. Collecting our packs, we found ourselves before our first real obstacle. The trail faded under a garden of boulders, reappearing to tantalize us only to disappear again below the rocks. Beyond the boulder field stretched the scree slope, reaching steeply to the sky. Suspended in limbo, no matter how often my legs lifted, my knees bent, or my feet struck the rocks, the scree slope still limited my horizon.

The scree slope. Try to find Dar and Cliff
My face heated. Dar and Cliff shrank, their tan clothing merging with the scree. The earth concentrated its malevolent gravity on my pack, my feet struggling to keep moving forward in the never-ending rocky landscape. Finally Cliff and Dar stopped against the trees. The end, I breathed out, wrestling with the last few steps to reach them. But no, beyond them the scree stretched upward, relentless, and above that, Cliff said, one more ridge.

My brain shut down. I slipped and slid on the rocks and the dirt, barely avoiding the trees. We stopped for a rest. Suddenly, a voice, a head. A Brit hopped up, jauntily swinging his long legs and arms. “Only a few feet, I think!” he announced, and continued his dash up.

Cliff smiled indulgently. “People always wonder why climbers have to turn around sixty feet from the summit,” he commented. “Sixty vertical feet are not the same as sixty feet distance.” Feeling wise and realistic, we followed the Brit’s hopeful footsteps. And there, not sixty feet from us, lay Tarn Lake, warming its frigid, glacial  waters in the sunny afternoon.
Tarn Lake

It had taken us six hours to get here. I stumbled, exhausted, barely taking in the scenery, as the Matterhorn serenely watched.  When I nearly crushed my finger, helping Dar set up the tent, he asked me to please sit aside. I looked at the snow and stones, the steep terrain leading up to the mountain, and in my head only one thought ran in circle: there’s no way I’m going to do this climb tomorrow. No way at all.

To be continued....

Monday, June 18, 2012

How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive -- Bear Musings

I love sleeping on the ground, listening to the night noises, and imagining the stars overhead even when they are obscured by tree canopies, clouds, or my own myopia. My sleeping bag feels softer and warmer than any down comforter, and my make-shift pillow, made of clothes stuffed into a bag, gives me immense satisfaction. Whenever I sleep in motels or hotels, I dislike how closed and airless the room is and the negative energy from all the electrical appliances that cannot be turned off. I long for the open air, for the feeling of the ground under me, for the sound of the wind in the trees overhead.

On Monday, we arrived at Mono Resort near Twin Lakes at 9pm, and I was appalled at the number of RVs parked side by side in long neat rows that filled up the campground. We drove after Cliff’s car, searching for a campsite as far away from these large metal monsters as we could, surprised to see some that featured fences, directv antennas and potted plants. Cliff pulled into an open campsite with two picnic tables, and we set up our tent on a flat stretch of dirt. When we turned around to look for bear lockers in which to protect our food, we were in for a surprise. There were none.

Within the borders of Yosemite, visitors are warned to be ultra-careful with their food, to pack it inside bear canisters (the approved method for carrying food in the wilderness) or bear-proof lockers, and to leave none in their cars. But perhaps at Mono Resort, though just a few miles outside the borders of Yosemite, the bears did not present a problem. As we put as much food as we could inside our bear canisters and placed them as far away from ourselves as we could, I wondered, what are a few miles for a bear? Do bears care for park boundaries, or do Yosemite-Valley bears ever hop over to Mono Resort to get a midnight snack from these unprotected stacks of food before returning to the valley?

Cliff slept near the picnic table -- his tactic for protecting against bears. He told us he had an entirely different strategy for mountain lions. He kept Dar’s bear spray nearby and said he would bang on a pot if bears came by. The night passed without incident, but in the morning we heard about two climbers whose climb of The Incredible Hulk, was cut short because bears broke into their food. They had no bear canisters.

Twin Lakes from the trail
At 10am, the bear canisters at the bottom of our packs, we started plodding uphill, toward the Matterhorn. Twin Lakes stretched below us, boats dotting the emerald water, sunlight blinking on the gentle waves. The bear spray lay forgotten in the car. Bears were the least of my worries. My back ached under the heavy pack, and all I could think of was what the next three days will bring and whether I would make it back all right.

To be continued....

Sunday, June 17, 2012

How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive -- Part II

Carrying an over 40lbs pack on Mt Olympus
In Hebrew, we say about restless children that they have thorns in their rear end. An apt metaphor, I always thought. As a child, I did not have this particular problem. I sat for hours, engulfed in a book. But how long can I read about adventure before I wish to experience one for my self?

Every few years, I’d dip my feet in the sea of adventure, only to pull them back quickly in dismay. In the IDF, after enlisting with idealistic hopes and fervor, I found myself buried in boring offices with a boring job. Later, at Stanford, I decided to stay living at home. I  avoided interactions with my fellow students, becoming perhaps the only student in the world who had never been to a college party.

I came to have these beliefs about myself: I believed in my own physical weakness, my need for comfort, my inability to handle physical hardship. I believed that while hiking (a favorite activity in which I limited myself to no more than 5 or so miles) I could not possibly carry a bag. I believed that I was a hermit, hiding from the world within the pages of books, unable truly to experience life.

Boy, was I wrong about that!
On Muir Snow Field, Mt Rainier

I suppose after years of yearning for adventure I should not be surprised when adventures catch up to me and flash-flood my life, but the me who lacks confidence in my survival skills still freezes with fright when an adventure arrives. As the Matterhorn trip came closer, I began to freak out, unconsciously knowing, perhaps, that this adventure was planning on breaking all the rules and leaving no easy way out.

I stressed. I reread the chapter on the Matterhorn in the book. I looked at trip reports on the web. I studied the map. Cliff sent an email with details. You’ll need boots and crampons, he said. I read about the glacier in the book, but somehow did not expect to cross it. Weight accumulated. I feared I would not be able to carry my pack. I worried about what Dar and I would eat for lunch, for snacks. I worried about not having a bathroom. I worried about the climb. I worried about my fitness level. I worried that I would not come back alive.
Solo campsite on Bear Mtn, Coe SP

At the same time, with all my heart, I believed that this trip would not come to pass. And why worry about something that is not going to happen? I tried to put the Matterhorn, Cliff, backpacks, crampons and glaciers out of my mind. I found other, more important stuff to worry about.

But the clock, persistent as ever, kept ticking. Days rolled by. And before I knew it, Monday was here, the car was packed, and the road was beckoning Dar and I toward the High Sierra, the Matterhorn, and an adventure out of this life.

To be continued.....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

How I Climbed the Matterhorn and Came Back Alive -- Part I

Behind me is Mount Starr King
My adored Yosemite Climbing Guide, Nate Kerr, was always suggesting adventurous climbs for me. He had early on realized that my rock climbing ambition did not apply to climbing more technically-difficult routes but rather to getting to out-of-the-way, wild places, where hardly anyone ever comes. Thus, he carried me on a glorious day to Mount Starr King, frightened me out of my wits on three or four pitches on the rarely-climbed Arrowhead Spire, and told me stories about Bear Creek Spire, Mount Russell, and the Matterhorn.

The dreaded Arrowhead Spire
Of all his stories, I fell in love with the Matterhorn. I studied the map, tracing my finger over Matterhorn Canyon, the Sawtooth Range, the excitingly-named Incredible Hulk, and a scattering of lakes and creeks which drew from my imagination the unstoppable desire of going there. After checking with the Mountaineering School in Yosemite, however, Nate came back with bad news. The Matterhorn was located in Toiyabe National Forest, outside the boundaries of Yosemite, and he couldn’t take me there.

The Matterhorn remained a dream, a place I wanted to visit. I read and reread the description of the route in Chris McNamara’s High Sierra Climbing. It seemed perfect, and I am quoting from the book: “It is not the best climbing in the Sierra, but appeals because it is not too difficult, and ascends a striking arete on a big and aesthetic peak. It’s one of the easier climbs that gives a complete alpine experience: a glacier, a striking summit, incredible views.” Trip reports on the web and their photos only strengthened in me the desire one day to climb this fabulous peak.

The Matterhorn serenely waiting for unsuspecting climbers
Fortunately for me, Nate is not the only rock climbing guide I know. A few years ago, crying at the bottom of Mount Rainier instead of the summit (as I did the year after), I told Cliff Agocs, representative of Bay Area Wilderness Training, that I will not be climbing Mount Rainier with the Climbing for Kids group. I felt I was not ready to handle the climb at that time. Though I did not climb the mountain that year, my involvement with BAWT remained stable, and my friendship with Cliff slowly grew.

Some time later Cliff left BAWT and began to guide climbers on Mount Hood, another mountain I had wanted to climb ever since I first saw it. We reconnected and began to talk about where we want to go, and when I mentioned my dream of climbing the Matterhorn, Cliff enthusiastically announced that he had also always wanted to climb it and can take me there. Dates and plans were swiftly put in place. The stage was set for the most unbelievable adventure of my life, and I didn’t even know it yet.

To be continued.....