FALLING IN LOVE WITH A MOUNTAIN

Falling in love with a mountain, for me, is a lot like love at first sight, and beyond that, it takes time. And I think it needs to love you back, too. I’ve loved a handful of mountains like that, ones that have loved me back, that seemed as though they watched over me, and called to me in my dreams. There are others that seem more like a brief love affair, and I never forget those ones, I will always hold them dear in my memories. But some mountains, well, they just have all my heart and soul.

My first mountain love wasn’t even really a mountain, but at age four it was a mountain to me. And when I discovered wild apple trees on its flanks, it had me. My adventures up to those apple trees were the first of many gifts that climbing mountains would afford me. And during those climbs, on my four year old legs, I discovered a deep strength in myself, and also, a friend in Nature. I learned that I could do things, that if I just kept at it, I would get there, and something beautiful would greet me. Mountains have always offered me gifts. Sometimes those gifts come as wild fruit, berries, or other plants, and sometimes they come as an interaction with a wild animal. And I’m almost always rewarded with a beautiful view.

Everywhere I’ve lived in the western states I’ve had a mountain that I see daily that I’ve fallen in love with; currently, that mountain is Baboquivari, in southern Arizona. But I’ve found my love growing for Humphrey’s Peak in northern Arizona. We climbed it for the first time, in the summer, over ten years ago now, before I had even moved to Arizona. We often pass by it on road trips now, holding it in our view as we drive by. And after this last weekend, I have stood on its summit it four times, twice in the summer and twice in the winter. I think the winter climbs are my favorite. There are no glaciers, and so no crevasses to worry about, but it still offers a steep snow climb with a relatively high summit elevation, 12,633 feet, complete with all the majestic beauty of a long ridge line approach above tree line. I’ve traversed this beautiful ridge in the summer heat, and in winter winds so strong I had to push against the wind, guarding my face as I made my way to the summit. We have a history together now, Humphrey’s and I, and I think maybe I just can’t help falling in love with a mountain that I spend a lot of time with…

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This year’s winter climb of Humphrey’s Peak

Heading up the ski slope at sunrise
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Looking back at the above tree line ridge approach…
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Getting closer to the summit…
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Almost at the summit. I look so small.
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Taking a break on the summit, looking down at the red desert below…
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