Two weeks ago I had a man die in my arms. My fiancee and I were the first responders to a bad fall: the young man fell over 60 feet while climbing unroped. When he hit the ground he bounced down the talus slope a few hundred feet. Aided by his companions and some other hikers who responded, we gave him every chance we could, tending to his very serious head wounds and eventually performing CPR as he deteriorated. I literally breathed his dying breath.
That morning we were drinking coffee in our tent near Melakwa Lake. By coincidence we were talking about medical response and accidents in the mountains. Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of falling rocks and a cry: "Are you okay?" We grabbed our first aid kit and cell phone and started sprinting. Two hours later we watched the helicopter fly away with the body.
I don't have any deep insights to share; I can't put across to you how that day shook me. But I can tell about something that made me feel better.
Jacob is a very old friend of mine. We went to high school together in Portland and shared many formative experiences in the mountains (we once came close to burning down the Columbia Gorge trying to steal honey...from wasps). Early in college wevhad a mild epic on the north ridge of Mt. Stuart, and Jacob quit climbing altogether. He's now a full time organic farmer in Olympia, a father and a very wise fellow. I coaxed him out to climb the Tooth last week.
We started early to beat the heat. Cold pools of meadow air alternated with the sheltered, humid heat of the timber. With the haze of distant fires, the day didn't make any glamorous debut. Laughter echoes wonderfully in Pineapple basin, and we filled our bottles in the little stream amongst boulders. It slowly brightened and warmed, and we left the basin for the curling breezes of the ridge.
Jacob still remembers how to tie a figure-eight, even ten years later. I still trust his belay. We enjoyed the solid rock and fun movement of a classic climb. We ran into a few other parties, but kept to ourselves. I looked around on top, surprisingly at home. I wonder if this is what it's like for Jacob when he takes me around his fields. Here's the place where I work, and it is like paradise. Here are the peaks: Snoqualmie, Stuart, Chimney Rock, Glacier Peak, Garfield, Chair. So many peaks you can fill a lifetime.
Jacob says about farming, "Every year I learn about a hundred new, critical things that I should have known all along."
Hiking down we just couldn't help a detour to Source Lake. We tried to make boogie boards out of snow (there's still some big bergs of it beside the lake): didn't work. We tried to encourage a handsome frog to try out the snow raft: again, nothing. We laughed and came back alive in the cold water. We finished the day trying to figure out if a particular yellow flower was a buttercup or an avens. In the car with the field guide, it came down to hairy stems or no hairy stems, and neither of us could remember. It was the finest day I've had in a long while.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you a fun, safe time in the mountains.