All of us have mountains and lines that beckon to us every day, every season, every turn—Giants that loom in the periphery of our memory and thoughts. These monoliths sleep in our wildest dreams. And sometimes they creep slowly, after years of hoping and wanting, into our reality. These lines turn into days of our life that we’ll never forget. They trump weddings, graduations, and other celebrations because they represent an achievement that others can’t understand unless they spent that day with you, saw you make those turns, and felt what it was like to be in those places. These mountains and lines are officiators of greatness, if only in our own psyche. But they signify greatness that you’ll never forget (and may never surpass) because being invited into the wild by a mountain is like heaven’s doors opening for your welcome.
This December we were called into the living room of one of our favorite peaks, a mansion that stoops over our existence every day we’ve ever skied in Washington’s North Cascades. Each time we’ve ventured into the threshold of this esteemed range, we’ve cautiously dusted off our shoes at the door hesitantly asking, “Are you sure?” But the mountain has been a gracious host. Polite and accommodating, serving up everything we’d hoped for as an intimidated guest.
On our 15-hour mission in December, the gates opened with an honest certainty. Snow stability and freshness we’re expected as we climbed the nearly 7,000 vertical feet to the summit. After skiing that same distance in warm sunlight, but cold crystallized powder, back down to the valley floor, we were only half way done with the mission. We still had to go home. We still had to get back to the tiny house two drainages and another climb away. Our day and night we’re not over.
Invitations can be just like that. You can’t make assumptions based on your R.S.V.P. The party might go on for longer than you’d hoped. And mountains are surprising hosts, often temperamental. But, sometimes they let you slip out the back door, going unnoticed, like the quiet guest who sat in the corner, barely uttering a sound, but soaking in all the glorious sounds, smells, and sights, of people enjoying the time that they are alive.