Ptarmigans and processing

For twenty-five days we lived in a boulder field.  Shades of grey dominated our view of the world as rock was above and below us, and sometimes in our tea.  The white snow transformation was the exception.  Lichens were on scene with strength, adding green, orange, and brown highlights to the granite.  Upon first arriving at the base of the wall, the echoing crash of tumbling rocks throughout the day from a peak across from Proboscis was alarming.  With time the cacophony became white sound.  We also adapted to the constant boulder hopping to get anywhere: after three weeks it felt natural.

Our only visitors within camp were a white-tailed ptarmigan family of three who alerted us to their presence with high-pitch calls across camp.  They peered at us from orange eyelids and I was happy that they navigated around us with ease.  I was glad to have my Peterson bird song guide on my iPod, not having brought a bird book.

While on the wall, sitting at belays I stared at the lake below our camp, and beyond at the glaciers perched on top and hanging from the granite peaks (and at my climbing partners of course).  We walked down to this lake the day after we climbed to the top of Proboscis.  It was sunny and we marveled in the pockets of lushness beside the snowmelt stream.  The lake called to us and we all submerged: COLD water up north in the NWT.

As we drive south through changing landscapes the return to green dominance has brought us back to life outside the wall, our tents, and discussions exclusively between the three of us.  We are immersed in the wider world where walking on flat ground is not of special notice.  I appreciate the ease of drinking water and sleeping on a level surface.

Our team shared a special time, place, and goal, but each one of us had a unique experience and a range of emotions and difficulties.  Reflecting upon our granite wall climb at “blinding speed” is acting as a stimulus.  Our style evolved as we faced the reality of climbing for multiple days, fixing ropes, and figuring out the puzzles of free moves and tightening bolts without a crescent wrench.  We are all making peace with present and future ideas of who we are.  We have learned tremendously on this trip and I am in the processing stage of my experience, and will share more in the future.  I am keen to go on another trip, so I would say that is a sign of success just as much as accomplishing our team goal.

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About Lorna K Illingworth

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon I grew up swimming in the city, exploring the forest around my home, and skiing up at Mt Hood. My British parents introduced me to fell walking on our annual trips to the Lake District to see family in the north of England, and instilled a love for travelling to new areas. I started rock climbing at Middlebury College, and took a semester off to go climbing and skiing in Canmore, Alberta, before traveling to Nepal for study. Being in the mountains drew me to climbing, and now I am keen to be hundreds or thousands of feet up on a wall. Since finishing college I have climbed in the States and abroad. Recently I have lived seasonally in Yosemite Valley, working on YOSAR.
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2 Responses to Ptarmigans and processing

  1. John Rich says:

    Nice piece of writing Lorna! Thanks for sharing that. I’m curious about where on that peak your route was. Can you post a picture that shows the line you three took?
    Cheers

  2. AM says:

    Sounds like success to me. Nice work!!

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