The sky was within our grasp.
What had been a lazy breeze at the Shasta Trail Head became a shrieking torrent at ten thousand feet. The wind howled down the mountain, carried away ice and snow, and exposed the mountain’s bones. My companion pointed a gloved hand towards the summit. He was super human; we had traveled the same distance, but he didn’t seem tired at all. His snow gear covered everything but his eyes.
The summit was silhouetted against a cloud of stars that shined defiantly through the storm. I took a nervous drink from my water bottle and swallowed hard. “Hey, let’s keep it classy! Drink it with your pinkie up.” My friend’s laughter was buried beneath the wind. I shoved my bottle into my pack. We spent a day waiting for the wind to die down; long enough for apprehension to take root deep inside my chest.
When we finally left base camp, Saturday night had just begun to transform into Sunday morning. We crawled up the mountain, kicking our crampons into the ice. I willed my tired body across Shasta’s massive glacier, to a rock outcropping that hung precariously over a two hundred foot drop. I tossed my head back to take a drink of water, but not a drop came out. I had forgotten to keep my bottle inside my sleeping bag; the whole thing had frozen solid. Doubts burned their way through my aching muscles. The acrid scent of sulfur poured down from the volcano. Brian removed his balaclava to reveal a tired, but playful grin. He said that if I was going to drink all his water, I would have to be the first one across the traverse. Something in me still had the strength to laugh. He passed me the bottle from inside his jacket, and I wagged my pinkie in the air as I took a gulp.
My ax hooked into a shallow crevasse and I slowly began to work my way across the rock. Little tufts of snow tumbled from my boots to the rocks below; terror left my mind silent. I spent an eternity clinging to that frozen rock. With my last, desperate reserve of strength, I hoisted myself over the ledge, and climbed into a dream. With nothing left to cast a shadow, I found myself drenched in a crisp orange glow. The whole world fell away, leaving me with an unbroken view in every direction. I was floating when I signed my name into the ledger that rests atop Mt.Shasta.
I’ve only found revelation on rambling trails, beneath a rising sun that burned my fears away like fog. It’s a goal of mine to spend my years on the road, with the whole world to call my own.