Updated: Feb 5, 2022
This story was created on the land of the Ute Native American Tribe
Hearing the alarms buzz at 2:00am is never a great feeling. I was awoken from a very realistic dream that we'd already woken up, packed, and started hiking, so I was...disoriented, to say the least!
Tim and I dragged ourselves out of bed and ate a quick instant oatmeal breakfast before getting ready to head out. Our goal was to reach the knife edge of Kelso Ridge by sunrise, and in my haste to hit the trail, I packed the car keys in the rooftop tent and had to completely reopen it to get them. Not my best moment.
After that blunder, we began our hike. The world around us was covered by a thick layer of fog, eerily lit by the red light of our headlamps as we made our way up the valley. The thought occurred to me that hiking through a cloud meant there was a solid chance for a cloud inversion. That had me stoked. We carried on in silence for quite a while, focused on our steps and trying to get our minds and bodies to work together after a very short night's sleep.
Then I looked up, we'd stepped out of the cloud and into a scene dominated by one of the most immensely starry skies I've ever seen. The full arc of the Milky Way was spread above our heads. We stopped, stunned by the majesty of it. Eventually, we pressed on and made it to the ridge where the scramble up Kelso begins, taking a 15 minute break for a snack and a power nap.
We started climbing just as the first hints of orange crept their way to the horizon. And as we climbed, it quickly became apparent that my inversion theory was correct! We were well above the clouds, watching them swirl in the valleys down below us. Cloud inversions and ridge scrambles are two of my favorite things in the whole world, so getting them both at once was an incredible blessing.
We climbed on, focused on the terrain and our movement but often pausing to look around us as the world began to light up. At this point, hitting the knife edge for sunrise wasn't going to happen, so we just wanted to get as high as we could. When the sun came up, the mountains and the clouds were bathed in a bright, yet soft golden light. It felt like we'd stepped onto another planet.
We made our way to the notorious knife edge where we crossed and finished the short scramble to the summit. We stayed a while, resting our weary bodies and watching the clouds billow around us…
In writing this story, I was reminded of the quote by Anatoli Boukreev, “Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion." For me, there is something undeniably divine about the alpine world. It's as if God choreographed the movement of the clouds in time with the rising of the sun and somehow, in the midst of that grand theater, I was given the chance to share the stage. Whether or not you share my belief, I think everyone who chooses to climb mountains knows that up there, there is a feeling that cannot be found anywhere else.
Discussion question for the comments: When was a moment that you felt a sense of divinity in nature? If that's not something you've experienced before, where do you think you may be able to find that feeling?