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Rock Collecting

Submitted by rock_rookie on 2005-01-12

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The view was spectacular! In my 34 years, I had truly not seen a sight quite as breathtaking. There were snow-capped peaks against a backdrop of liquid blue sky, for as far as I could see. In the valley below, vehicles on the highway appeared as minute specks inching along a length of string, winding through a dark velvet coniferous carpet. The lake at the base of the mountain was a tiny, brilliant emerald, catching the sun and flashing it directly at me. My eyes drank up the surreal surroundings, burning the image into my grey matter for retrieval and enjoyment during future daydreaming sessions. Had it been only me and the ninja turtle doll wedged in the cairn next to me, I likely would have burst into tears that very second. But there were seven of us that day, that glorious Monday in June, perched atop A2, a 10,000 foot subpeak of Mt Athabasca. Ten thousand feet! Who’d have thought that I would ever climb a mountain! Biting my lip I reminded myself that I certainly couldn’t cry in front of these alpine veterans, as we broke into our packs and dug out our lunches. The group was carrying on, chatting away in between bites, snapping photos, appearing unfazed by travelling five and a half hours over snow, ice and rock to reach this fabulous place. For me however, the moment was epic; it jolted me to the soul and will remain clear in my mind forever.

You see, I am not a mountaineer by any stretch or twist of the word. Right to my core, I am a cityslicker, and that’s with a capital C!! I enjoy showering daily, eating out several times a week, television (That 70’s Show!)… Oh, I’ve spent my share of time in the great outdoors – but my adventures most always included a travel trailer carrying all (and I do mean ALL) the comforts of home. Roping up to hike across a crevasse-riddled glacier was something I only saw in Warren Miller type movies. And the heaviest pack I had ever carried on my back contained a textbook or two and perhaps an apple. Until I met these fine folks, I couldn’t have told you what a crampon or carabiner was if you paid me a million dollars! The realization of what a sheltered life I had lived was blatant.

My thoughts danced back over the previous year of my life, which had been somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster. It started when I chose to end a seven-year relationship with someone whom I loved with all my heart but had grown far apart from. Then I warily hacked into my life savings and purchased a small but comfortable place of my own to dwell; and to add to the personal upheaval – I changed careers. The months leading up to the trek to A2’s summit had taken their toll on my psyche, but as I sat in the sunshine on a snowy ledge of amber and charcoal coloured limestone, gripping my ice axe so hard my knuckles were white, every concern and doubt I had just floated away. Words cannot describe the feelings of freedom and accomplishment that washed over me.

I gazed out over the mountains and decided that 4:30 that morning was definitely the TSN Turning Point. My stomach was churning with fear and anticipation when I not-so-jokingly mentioned that maybe I should wait at the truck – surely someone should watch over the vehicles, no??!! My partner didn’t bat an eye at the remark. His response was an unwavering, “Finish eating and get your pack ready,” as he walked past me on his way to see how the others were managing. I was never so grateful to anyone for ignoring me, although I think it was more a matter of him believing in me rather than carelessly dismissing my comment. Replaying that few minutes of hesitation in my mind prompted me to get up and give him a giant hug. But he had already climbed down a pitch and was busy preparing a rappel station for the rest of us. So I resumed gaping with awe at the panorama which enveloped me, and I imagined… Imagine if I had stayed behind – imagine what I would have missed!

The wind picked up, and one by one I watched the gang disappear over the edge, down to the ridge which led to the glacier. I pulled on my down-filled parka and stowed my lunch remnants and light jacket in the lid of my pack. Soon it was my turn to hook my rappel device into the ropes. I bid farewell to the one-armed ninja figurine and quickly searched for a small rock to stuff into my pocket as a memento of the stellar trip. I lowered myself and joined everyone for the trudge back to the real world, through the now sun-softened snow. In spite of the somewhat slushy conditions, the pace was much quicker than on the way up, especially for those comrades who chose to thoroughly soak themselves by glissading all the way to the moraine. While I wandered along, high stepping every so often when the icy crust gave way and swallowed up my lower legs, I found myself thinking that perhaps owning a television was overrated. I had not seen anything as interesting or beautiful on any show I had ever tuned in to. Maybe I wouldn’t buy a new TV after all… I was surprisingly excited about collecting my next rock!


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