Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why Do We Have to Get Up So Early?

Alpine starts are always painful, and this Monday was no exception. The trailhead for the ephemeral Colorado ice climb Vanquished is an hour and a half from my house, and the walk to the route takes about three and a half hours. Since we wanted to arrive at the base shortly after sunrise, I had to set the alarm for 1 a.m. That's just sick. But walking into the mountains in the dark is strangely pleasurable. The woods are full of muffled noises, and approaches seem to pass quicker when you can't see your destination in the distance. And then there are the sunrises, which are often stunning. Here's the east face of Taylor Peak lit up by the morning rays. Surely views like this make the early starts all worthwhile.

OK, that's the prettied-up, magazine-copy version of alpine starts. In truth, views like this make alpine starts somewhat worthwhile. Two mornings later, I'm still exhausted. And, yes, it was beautiful, but at that moment I was mostly just feeling tired from the hours of uphill hiking we'd done with heavy packs, and I was worried about the climb ahead, and my bowels were rumbling but I was too cold to do much about it. It was blowing so hard that my bare hands were freezing and I couldn't hold the camera still. I snapped a quick shot and stuffed the camera back into my pocket and my numb fingers back into my gloves, wishing the damn sun would hurry higher into the sky, but knowing that we wouldn't feel its warmth for another half a day on the cold north face we were about to climb.

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