Climbing in Sierra Nevada: the Prettiest Road Goes up the Cliff

This is not my image, but this is what we climbed

It is 11 pm Pacific time. I am dreaming of granite walls merging with the sky, of snow patches hiding from the sun in the north facing gullies, of boulder fields and screes, of the city of rocks, of occasional pine trees and small lakes glistening far below, of an adrenaline rush, of fear and excitement, of happiness. I am dreaming of mountains.

I started mountaineering late, in my mid-twenties. It crept up on me over the years, slowly turning into an addiction. Why do I climb, spending days and weeks stuck in the mountains and on the cliffs, suffering through cold and heat, bleeding, eating power bars, sleeping on the rocks and fighting altitude sickness?

A journalist once asked George Mallory (one of the greatest mountaineers humankind has seen), “Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?” 

Mallory answered, “Because it is there.” 

He disappeared while trying to climb Everest in 1924. His body was found 75 years later. Some time ago, I tried to explain to my mom why I climb. “Mom,” I said, “All the roads don’t lead to Rome. They all lead to a cemetery, but the prettiest one climbs up a cliff.”

Continue reading

Climbing in the Cascade Mountains

Thursday

I am airborne, like a plague.

A plane is taking me away from my work, my girlfriend and my friends, away from my fat black cat and from her white belly, away from the city of New York, my immigrant home.

 Middle America leisurely rotates below me. The quiet corn fields glow in the sun. The smooth round cows wander in the fields, munch on the corn and drool on both ends. The locals stately push their carriages along the extra-wide Walmart aisles, their children wobbling behind. The warm humid air pulses over the parking lots. The little white churches lead to salvation. The flyover states enjoy their summer.

The Cascade mountains are drawing closer at 600 miles an hour, 10 miles a minute, almost 100 feet per one heart beat.

Tomorrow my friend Sprax and I will sort our gear, pack our backpacks, exhale the last gulp of car exhaust and start walking uphill.