the Jaws of Death
2 of 3)
Solo Climb as a senior
in High School on the north face of Mt Mcloughlin 9,495 ft.
One young man's Eigerwand.
After my peaceful solo night
on McLoughlin's summit, I descended the NW ridge of the mountain.
Here I recorded this inspiring view across the sweep of Mt McLoughlin's
little known north face. In the distance are Fourmile Lake, Upper
Klamath Lake, and Yamsay Mountain, 8,196 ft, on the distant eastern
Butte, 8,000 ft, the proposed
site of Oregon's newest ski area, lies just to the left edge of
this picture. Mt. McLoughlin is Oregon's most southerly major Cascades volcano,
and it was last active during the height of the Roman Empire,
thus making its last fires contemporaneous with the flows of McKenzie
Pass to the north.
The Boulder of God
What was I
thinking? What was I doing trying to traverse across the north
face of Mt. McLoughlin, by myself and with only an ice axe that
I barely knew how to use? It was hot as hell on that June day,
mid-morning, too late to be there in the path of rockfall as the
sun beat down. Sweat dripped across my body in waves, but it wasn't
all due to the heat. Danger could be heard as the mountain let
loose various pieces of itself. As I neared the center of the
north face, I crossed a deep and dirt-stained "gut"
-- it seemed like a dangerous place so I moved fast. Pausing maybe
30 feet past it to catch my breath, I heard an alarming "crack"
from high above. My eyes darted upward, to see a deadly boulder
the size of a Volkswagen ponderously gaining speed in a series
of leaps and bounds, each new bound accompanied by a spray of
snow. I watched in a numb fear as the dark monster smashed into
my footsteps, leaving a giant hole and pelting me with hard spring
snow. As it passed, its leaps seemed longer and longer. I watched
it bound down the steep slope for what seemed forever. When the
giant finally entered the trees far below, it was just a dot,
but it sent trees flying into pieces, soundlessly. The spell was
broken, I was no longer afraid of the steepness of the slope.
I rushed pell-mell down and across, exiting that awful north face
via the mountain's northeast ridge. I didn't tell anyone what
Serenity in the Sky.................................................
I'm sitting on the foundations
of the old fire lookout station atop Mt. McLoughlin, gazing 75
miles south at Mt. Shasta, 14,162 ft.. I'm dreaming of the life
led by the fire lookouts who formerly lived on the summit. Here
is the story that I wrote about that morning on the summit, all
alone. Psychologist Abraham Maslow would have called it a "Peak
He sat alone on the mountain
peak, high in the morning sun, his gaze extending for a hundred
miles in all directions. He had been there since dawn, in the
vast sweep of forests and plains where there was no sign that
humankind and its noisy civilizations had ever existed. The small
sounds of the mountain responding to the heat of the sun became
preternatually clear, subtle creaks and groans, a distant rock
breaking its bonds to tumble down a scree slope.
Overhead the impossibly blue sky glowed with an inner light. Two
hawks appeared unexpectedly from below, riding the morning thermals.
One drifted so close he could hear the sounds of the wind breaking
over its body. Then just as suddenly, the wind blew them away
over the mountain's shoulder. They were vanished.
Only he remained -- alone and yet strangely joyous, for such was
his vast New World, with its long days to be lived far from distractions
of home, of parents, spouses, friends, teachers, employers, police.
A companion of generations of wild things that would know nothing
of the Dominion of Man, the Planet's passing fancy. Years elapsed
before he realized what had dawned on him that morning - a larger
Life Vision, a reconnection to all things ancient, primordial.
Never would he be alone again, for with his realization he had
uncovered his hidden truth: alienation, the malaise of modern
man, had lost its power over his life.
Links to some
of my other outdoor adventure stories:
"Mountain Night on the Skyline Trail"
"Dark Lake of My Dreams"
Story copyrighted Bruce B. Johnson M.A. 2006-2017, Janet K. Hughes,
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