Mt. Gould, Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier National Park, MT
Originally uploaded by Randy Williams
Many years ago I had a out of body experience on top of a mountain that has left me with an unnatural anger at windy days. Riding my bike through the campus at KU with a portfolio acting as a wind barrier only reinforced my position.
My experience was on top of Mt. Gould in Glacier National Park the year I worked at Many Glacier Hotel for the summer. I was talked into climbing a mountain* that I really didn't want to climb. It didn't help my attitude that we (the employees) were all in danger of being evacuated due to fires in the area. The guy that talked me in to it was a real mountain goat and I was grumpy and tired at the time but agreed to go. We were literally blown up the mountain. On top of the mountain I can't say exactly what happened but I was suddenly very disoriented; east became west and I was completely out of my mind. My words cannot do it justice. It didn't help that I looked up from my altered state and there, not more than ten feet away, stood a real mountain goat. Not the aforementioned friend, a real one. In my state of mind that goat could have asked me to pass the butter or something and it would have seemed perfectly normal. Anyway, it was weird.
Here's where the wind figures into the story. At the top of that mountain the wind was picking up some pretty good sized boulders and flinging them off the side to the depths below and so I was thinking, how long before that wind is strong enough to start flinging people off the mountain. I developed a healthy respect for nature at that point. We high tailed it off the mountain and let me tell you something you may not know. Going down a mountain is more difficult than going up even in the best of circumstances. With the wind hindering our progress it was all the more difficult. When we made it down the mountain we were informed that the rangers had shut down the mountain shortly after we started up because of dangerous winds. Did you know you could shut down a mountain?
Though my words are so hopelessly inadequate to describe how difficult it was for me to "conquer"that mountain, you'll just have to take my word for it that it was. In fact when the time came for me to have my first baby I used the mental picture I had of that experience to help get me through labor. If I could climb that mountain on that day I could do anything. Four kids later with no epidurals, I'm telling you giving birth was easier than climbing that mountain.
So, to this day I am still angry at the wind. It's pointless, I know. It's the most pointless anger in the world. And yet there I am at 4:30 in the morning unable to sleep, cursing at the wind.
*In the spirit of full disclosure and because the photo (Thank you Randy Williams whoever you are) of the mountain makes it look so intimidating I need to let you know that we climbed the back or west side of the mountain. The front side would be one heck of a technical climb that I don't think they even allow in Glacier because the rock is so weathered and brittle.