Having the day off, two of my coworkers and I decided to climb Panorama Mountain. I knew I was out of my league and I didn’t care. I packed my gear and headed out with them for the day. One was a decent rock climber and the other had summited Denali, they were far more skilled than I. If you don’t push your limits you’ll never get better I thought as we drove out to the days event.
There it stood, rocky, jagged and foreboding right off the road. The sheer 45 degree sides covered only in lichen and loose rocks had me worried. I hadn’t done any real climbing in over six months and the terrain was more out of my comfort zone than I had thought. Taking one quick breath, I hiked onward with them. I was out of shape and it showed quickly. The other two were soon far head of me as I climbed hand over hand up the steep side. Using roots and small bushes and hand holds I ascended slowly and steadily.
The silence gave way as I turned my music on to drown out my thoughts. Before long I had caught them on a small flat spot. We reset for a moment about a third of the way up and discussed our plan. With Drew in the lead I was in the middle and Kevin took up the rear. And so it went like this as we climbed higher and higher. The loose rocks and unsteady footing had me worried. Handholds and footholds for them would give way for me. I outweighed the two guys by quite a bit and it would require more caution to continue up.
By now we we about halfway up or about little more and I paused at this rocky outlook. I knew the higher we went the more out of my skill level I would go and I didn’t about have the gea to climb. I was not a good rock climber and as the terrain would force us to go vertical I would be stuck. This was my last point of safe return and I told them I’d stay here for quite bit then head to the car. We discussed our route back down so everyone knew which way we’re going. I was headed 200 ft across the side of the mountain to a scree field, from the we would all take the same route down. They headed up and I sat on the overlook for a while.
Looking out into the vastness of the Alaska Range, you couldn’t help but feel small. Snacking and soaking up the last bits of sunlight I took a quick nap up there. Tie well spent I made my way across the moutainside carefully. Once I hit the scree field it took me a few hundred yards to get the hang of it. On my 2000 ft descent of scree I was was getting pretty good at navigating it down. I enjoyed the down part so much more than the rock climbing parts. If you could only see this yellow dot, my rain jacket, on the mountain just floating down, you’d wonder what ever could that be.
Reaching the bottom, I headed back to the car and past it. I had seen a good place to take pictures of the river and made my way out to it. Spending a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere I waited for the others. They came down just a short hour after me and we headed home, hopped up on adrenaline and good feelings. What and great day to be out in the mountains. I missed the trail, the hiking, and the life.