March started out on a difficult note with four different snowstorms — which left me slogging through deep drifts, sinking up to the knees in fresh powder, toiling upwards one step at a time — just miserable hard work. On one hike, I’d set out to climb four peaks but completed only one, which put me behind schedule. As month-end began to draw near, there were seven peaks left — a feasible load — but then conference calls and meetings popped up unplanned for, and time started to get tight. Now there would be little room for error, especially when the longest, toughest hike was left for the last day of the month….
“There’s no rush.” Wise people counsel patience when I explain I’m trying to complete the Grid for the Catskill High Peaks, an obscure project that entails climbing the thirty-five peaks in each calendar month. But the project is important to me, and I feel a sense of urgency to get it done.
February has been weighing on my mind. To start with, it’s a month of challenging conditions — and not surprisingly, my log shows I’ve tended to steer clear of the Catskills during February: only fifteen of the high peaks are complete, which means there are twenty to go. That would be a lot for a full month, but with a trip to New Zealand scheduled for the first half of February, those twenty peaks will need to be climbed when I return, that is, within a two-week period, of which, after subtracting various commitments and appointments, only a handful of days is available.
Some nights I lie awake, reviewing different approaches for each of the twenty peaks, trying to devise the most efficient routes to get them done in the available time. Be safe, I remind myself, it’d be fine to finish off February next year — but then I go back to calculating how to pull this off — and wondering whether I have the strength to do so — and feeling vaguely uneasy.
And now the plane from New Zealand is touching down at JFK, and here I am back in New York…