Half-way through July, and I’ve completed just over half of the Catskill high peaks, many at night due to limited windows of opportunity during the day, but the rest of the month is tighter, and time is running out. The Grid has become a burden, and I feel a little like Sisyphus, doomed to push a rock up the mountain only to see it rolling back down again. But without burdens, life would be unbearably light, which is why Camus wrote that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.
Without enough time to write full articles on each climb, here are some notes from recent hikes, mostly for my own purposes in keeping track of the Grid Experience:
The mission was to complete the remaining twelve peaks needed to scratch the month of May off the Grid, and accordingly I arranged to take a week off of work. But the Rock The Ridge 50-miler left me with a sore ankle, which required a reduction in speed and mileage. In Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” he used the word “saunter” to describe the act of sallying forth into the woods, which was for him the adventure and escape of his day, and he likened this daily saunter to the motion of a stream flowing downhill to the ocean:
The saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.
— Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
To complete the Grid for May, I’d need to saunter instead of run — and rather than pushing myself, I’d need to “flow” through the mountains, just like a stream, except I’d be going uphill as well as down…
Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist philosopher and author of Walden, wrote an essay on the colors of fall foliage. But what about the colors of winter? With this question in mind, I set the alarm for 5:30 AM and went to bed early. Tomorrow’s agenda would be to climb four of the Catskill high peaks with the goal of making progress toward the Catskill 3500 Club winter patch, as well as the Grid. And perhaps I’d see or learn something along the way that would help me better appreciate the winter mountain landscape.
In a post last fall, I shared a photograph taken from the summit of Twin Mountain and made the point that after years of admiring the Catskills from the vantage of the Shawangunks, I had for the first time made the reverse connection.
Last weekend I returned to Twin Mountain, but this time with my friend Steve Aaron, who is a talented landscape photographer. And this time I saw something new….
Upon reaching a mountain peak, one may be rewarded with a sweeping vision of the land, assuming the weather is clear, something that in times past would have helped chart a course through the wilderness. But even today, when maps and GPS all but eliminate the practical value, we still experience special feelings when reaching a vantage point: surprise at the immensity of the landscape, joy in making distant connections, wonder at new sight lines, reverence for nature, humility, awe. In certain cultures, climbing mountains is part of a quest for spiritual vision.