I’m gonna be upfront with you, dear readers. The following story is for my grandchildren. If you want to read it (i.e. ‘eavesdrop’), fine. But you don’t have to.
Hey, kids. Isn’t that a beautiful picture? That is the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming.
The tall mountain on the right side is called Pingora. It’s top altitude measures 11,889′.
Last week Grampa and I went to a gathering at the camp in Wisconsin where we met. We had not been there in many years, and we’d not seen some of those people since we were all young.
It was fun to be there, but I actually cried a little bit remembering some hard moments I’d had the winter we lived there.
Grampa was the Winter Program Director for the weekend retreats, leading all the activities, skiing, ice skating, snow-shoeing, etc.
My job was assistant cook but the same day the head chef arrived, he also left (family illness) and I had to do it all: cook for 50 – 80 people!
I am a good cook now, but back then I had been married only a few months and I did not know much about cooking.
I regret not helping my mom and learning to cook as a girl. I hope you don’t make that mistake.
So that was a heavy responsibility and almost every night I cried myself to sleep. But it was temporary (only three months) and I did learn, and a few years later I enjoyed being in charge of the kitchen at Camp Little Pisgah in North Carolina. Maybe I’ll write that story another day.
So, back to the story about Pingora.
Besides feeling a little bit sad at that reunion, I loved seeing some old friends, sharing memories, and hearing some details I’d long-forgotten.
“Pingora” is one of those details: the name of a mountain I climbed.
I clearly remember that day, but I’d forgotten the mountain’s name.
When I found this photo online, I showed my friend, “Are you sure I climbed that?!?”
“Yes, you did!” she said.
It was 1976. I had been married to your grampa for 2 years. He was an outdoor education teacher at Montreat College and I had this notion that he wanted his new wife (me) to be a wilderness woman …. super-gung-ho into backpacking, canoeing, rock-climbing, etc.
I was wrong, but it took some years for me to believe him.
That summer Grampa was in summer school for his Master’s degree, so I signed up for a women’s trip led by a guy named Rick from Adventurous Christians.
We five ladies (one was Aunt M.A.W.) met Rick in Pinedale, Wyoming. He had all the gear and know-how and if I remember correctly he was only 16 years old.
We are going to trust our lives to him? Yes we did.
We divided everything — the food, clothes, sleeping bags, ropes, climbing gear, etc. – and stuffed it into our backpacks and started the 2 — or was it 3? — day hike into the Cirque. It was beautiful! Just like that picture above.
One afternoon, Rick taught a ‘ropes class.’ We practiced the knots and techniques of team-climbing and how to belay each other up and rappel down. (You will have to look up those mountaineering terms.)
When we got to the snowfield (can you see it in the picture?), Rick held ‘snow school.’ I learned how to cut steps, traverse the slope, and use an ice ax to self-arrest, in case I slipped and went sliding down the mountain. (which I didn’t, good thing.)
The night we camped at the base of Pingora, Rick explained that we would be getting up at 4 a.m. to have enough daylight to get all the way up and back down before sunset. We would be on that rock face all day.
Climbing all day! I couldn’t sleep, I was so scared.
I can’t do that! I thought.
But I did. Amazing.
At the end of that day, at the base of Pingora, untying my rope harness, I was exhausted. Couldn’t wait to get to our tent. I was oh, so thankful, and oh, so glad, repeating to myself, “I did it, I did it, and I will never rock climb again!”
It was a promise I’ve kept. :o)
Seeing that picture of Pingora makes me want to go back.
Not to climb it (of course!), just to see it. Just to walk in that beautiful part of God’s world.
But it is too far away and I am too old.
Maybe someday you can go.
Maybe someday you will climb Pingora.
Come back and tell me all about it, okay?