Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Would Jimmy Dunn Do?

The situation: Friday afternoon. Borderline-legal parking spot. Packs stocked with two nights provisions, rope, and a double rack. 2.5 hours of daylight, thirty minutes till the road closes. A forest guarded by “No Trespassing.” And again, the solution is made apparent by asking the obvious question: What would Jimmy Dunn do?

We shoulder packs, glance both ways, and scramble up into the woods.

The conundrum was how best to approach our destination, a lone crag of granite perched high on the shoulders of Pikes Peak. Option A: hike ten miles, gaining 4,000 feet of elevation. Option B: hitchhike up the Pikes Peak highway, which the city's custodial staff have graciously denied to overnight parking because tourists are more profitable than locals. Road closes at 5. It's 4:30. The rangers, notorious for their brusque demeanor and zero tolerance for any behavior outside the normalcy of their fee-collecting regimen, will be patrolling the highway, but a few cars might still be making the drive up. It's decision time; either take the chance on the highway or drive back to Manitou and start a 5-hour hike. Do we take the chance? I pose the question, our eyes meet, and we decide without a word.

Forty minutes later we disembark from the sports car driven by a friendly ARMY cavalry scout. It's near sunset at 13,000 feet and a sharp wind bites though our button-down shirts (gotta look respectable to catch a ride). We don warmer jackets in the lee of a boulder and hike out into the wilderness. Above looms the steep north face of Pikes Peak; below stretches the vast sprawl of Colorado Springs. Labyrinthine neighborhoods studded with deciduous trees intersperse with cubic facets of strip malls, all connected by arterial boulevards into a vast humming circuit board that stretches out into the plains, into a limitless horizon.

We scramble over boulders and trace sinuous grassy ledges down the ridge, pausing to gaze at the various crags on the peak, scoping for steep rock, scoping for promising lines. As dusk settles in, the grid below flickers in the lights of its eternal day. The city will forge ahead without pause, despite darkness, rain, and change of seasons. A billion bits of information and half a million beating hearts quivering in suspended animation in the tireless web of commerce that we call modern life. In some sequestered corner of that throbbing matrix lie my overflowing inbox, my credit card bills, my chores, my rent, my pending applications, my insecurities, my fears.

We downclimb a small step and reach a steep scree field. Our feet sink past the ankles as we bound down the slope in gaping strides, descending in laughter towards the pines below. In the dark forest we eat a simple meal and sip hot tea, staring up through ponderosa silhouettes at clean, steep granite etched against crisp stars, promise of hard things to come tomorrow. I fall asleep without a care in the world.

Waking up in paradise, David Fay scoping the goodness

Chekhov said if you place a pistol on the mantle in the first act, it must go of by the third. Accordingly, if you hike in two #5s, two #6s, and a #4 Bigbro, you might as well use them.

 Who says you can't climb 9 pitches in a day on a 3 pitch high feature? David on the last pitch of the route we saved for after dinner.