Lund Retreat Autumn 2007 (7)

Peter B. is back here at 6:30 in morning to pick me up for a hike up into the Coast Range. I have some difficulty getting going and packing what I need for the day. We drive two hours to the trailhead on logging roads where no old growth remains and the second growth is harvested with the haste of looters. But this grandiose landscape would be inaccessible without those roads.

We ascend through juvenile yellow cedars and wine-red blueberry twigs above Gamma and Alpha lakes till we come to the half-iced over Beta lake, at the base of the two Knucklehead peaks.

This is the easiest ascent of any of the high mountains in the area, and Peter’s plan is to make a loop between the two peaks and around the lake. But as we pull ourselves up by gripping the heather protruding through the iced-over snow, it becomes evident that the going will be rougher than expected. At times the snow is soft enough or the crust is thin enough for us to break through and gain traction. But in most places the surface is slick with hard ice.

At a little plateau where the vegetation gives way to pure rock and snow, Peter unpacks his single pair of crampons.

One goes on his left foot the other on my right. If you put any weight on the foot without the crampon, you are sure to fall, not something you want to do, given the slope and dropoffs. With the cramponed foot, you carve a rough, flat resting place for the useless foot but dont move it until you’ve stepped sideways and a little forward with the cramponed foot. Then you move the useless foot into its prepared spot and repeat the sequence. This is a lesson on the complexity of normal walking. It takes half an hour to make what would be a five minute traverse without the ice.

The weather is clear, the views spectacular and proceeding is not too strenuous or frightening if you slow down and pay very close attention.

We decide to stop for lunch at the saddle between the peaks, forgo both summits and head back the way we came.

The way down is easier because we have tracks to follow and the snow has softened a little. What a substance: hard, soft, appearing and disappearing–a solid almost as mercurial as liquid or gas.

Once returned to the lake, we split up to meditate, sitting on cushions of heather in the early lowering sun. Back by nightfall at Peter’s house, we’re served a salmon dinner by Margaret. A girl at the reserve sold her the fish, which, it turned out, was stolen from her grandmother’s freezer.

Leave a Reply