Mountain Life

2009-03-16 22:00:06.000 – Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer

The Raven’s Playground

It is a rarity on the summit to experience this many fogless days in a row. Although a bit hazier today, with temperatures in the 20’s, it is quite beautiful. With the freezing rain we had earlier in the week, combined with the sublimation of the ice, things are quite slick outside, but are perfect for crampons. The key is to be able to arrest immediately if you slip otherwise you’re in for a ride until you hit something or reach the flats.

Working days, it is not always easy to get out while the sun is in the sky. This was the case yesterday, but it was a beautiful night as well so I decided to go for a hike. I headed over to Clay, along the way seeing one impressive ice formation. It poured off the six foot rock like a waterfall might, forming a little cave behind it. Only an inch or two thick, I didn’t crawl behind it for fear of breaking it, especially if it chose to fall on me. I left this and slowly made my way over Clay and down the backside, eventually taking a short detour down the Sphinx Trail. There was a meadow I came upon when I hiked that trail last summer and I was curious just how protected it was. As expected, some aspects were more deeply drifted than others and it was a bit difficult to tell just how protected it really was with winds as they were. Nonetheless, it is a favorite spot of mine and I took out my shovel to dig a little snow bench, set my half-pad on it, and sat for a time. It was an incredibly beautiful and peaceful night, looking out into the Great Gulf and over to Adams in their grandeur. The stars above twinkled and one shot across the sky above me. Nights such as this seem to slow life down. Not that my life flies at any great speed, but I find it important to live at the speed of the mountains and trees from time to time, even if only for an hour on a snow bench. The chill of the night eventually worked its way through to me, so I packed up and headed back towards home. One thing I realized now that I don’t work nights is the fact I’m not sure when the moon rises. I figured it was late since it is just to the south at sunrise, but I still wasn’t sure of the exact time. Coming up the west side of the summit cone just shy of the top I was greeted by a bright waning moon low in the western sky – certainly a fine ending to a hike.

This morning the wonder continued as I went out at 0545 EST for my first observation. The red sun was just making its way above the horizon and appeared stratified due to the clouds. An undercast extended from the east side of Wildcat out to the ocean and the atmosphere was tinted a soft orange, fading to a pastel yellow due to the haze, finally turning a light blue overhead. Walking out the door, I saw a raven banking a turn at the far end of the deck against this background. He was soon joined by two friends of his and they all played in the morning light, doing beakdive barrel rolls within a friendly game of aerial tag. It was a fine 12 hours of my life, that is for sure.


Mike Finnegan,  IT Observer

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