But Did You Really Climb It?

Near the top of the Palmer Snowfield on Mt. Hood, the two mountaineers had been skinning uphill for about 2,600 feet when they saw the end of the snowcat track at about the 8,500-foot level.

“Wow, the snowcat goes up this high?” the first mountaineer said, slightly out of breath.

“It appears so,” the second mountaineer said, also breathing hard. “It used to take climbers up this high to start their ascent of the Hogsback Route.”

“But that’s almost halfway!” the first mountaineer said.

“I know!” the second mountaineer said. “Are you even climbing the mountain at that point?”

They shuffled their skis a few feet higher on the hard snow, hoping the sun would soften it before they started their descent.

“However,” the second mountaineer said, “You and I did drive to the parking lot, which is much higher than your house back in Portland. Almost 5,800 feet higher, in fact.”

“Indeed,” the second mountaineer said. “Perhaps we should have bicycled from my driveway for a more pure ascent?”

“Or walked,” the first mountaineer said.

“Walked from the ocean, actually,” the second mountaineer said. “That would be the purest form of alpinism.”

“Yes, I think so,” the second mountaineer said. “Except we also should have done this without crampons, ice axes, and skis. Those are artificial climbing aids.”

“You’re correct,” the first mountaineer said. “We should have done this climb with nothing but alpenstocks, in order to claim a pure ascent.”

“What the fuck is an alpenstock?” the second mountaineer said.

“You know, those big tall sticks they used to climb Mont Blanc in the 1700s,” the first mountaineer said.

“Ah, yes,” the second mountaineer said. “But I think no alpenstocks, because they are artificial and would taint a pure ascent of the mountain.”

“OK, no alpenstocks,” the first mountaineer said. “And probably no high-tech clothing then?”

“Exactly,” the second mountaineer said. “No high-tech clothing. Actually, no clothing. We must climb the mountain naked. Boots are artificial coverings for the feet.”

“Also,” the first mountaineer said, “Since the only true climb of a mountain is the first one, we must find mountains with no established routes to their summits, and then climb only those mountains.”

“Yes,” the second mountaineer said. “Beginning with our feet in the ocean. Completely naked. And we will eat no food other than what we can gather and hunt on our way to the mountain.”

The men were silent for a few minutes.

“Climbing things is kind of ridiculous,” the first mountaineer said.

The men skied higher, removed their skis, put crampons on their boots, climbed to the summit, skied down, and then drove to a diner to drink milkshakes.


More stories like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.