Mt. Hood

Zen of Plod

I came up with this phrase 13 years ago. My friend Carl, who lives in Seattle, organized a climb on Mt Hood. Carl is an enthusiastic and talented skier. I am not. Or at least, I was not then. Why don’t we carry our skis up and ski down? He beamed at me over the phone. Sure I immediately replied, immediately questioning my sanity.

We slept at the lodge, Timberline, for a bare three hours and rose shortly after midnight. We dressed in the warmth of the lodge and started sweating profusely in our warm clothing. We scaled the banked up snow out of the car park and eased ourselves onto the slope. Another party had left ahead of us and we could see their headlights winking in the distance, marking the way ahead. The glorious old CCC lodge is at 6,000 feet, Andy, Carl and the others immediately set off at a furious pace. This was April. My first climb of the season. I came along with my son who brought his snowboard. The snow was rock hard. We were climbing in ski-boots, my ankles twisting and turning in the frozen steps of others. The pace was getting to me. At 6,500ft. I had to stop. I ate a powerturd, cracking the frozen bar in my teeth, desperate for an energy fix of some kind. We re-shouldered our packs and our skis and carried on.

We got to about 7,200ft above the Palmer Ski Lift and I could not go any more. “Guys! Stop! I am just holding you back! I have to stop.” I cold not go on. We left them to climb the mountain the rest of the way. My son and I made our way down to the top of the ski run. It was still dark, we had packs. We had never skied the run before. It was frozen solid and still cut up. We strapped on our skis and bounced on the rock hard ice, barely keeping our balance, for the longest 1,000ft run I can remember.

We went back to the room and slept, in the morning we sat in the hot tub, watching skiers go by. Eventually our friends re-appeared. Later we joined them for huckleberry milk shakes. A guilty treat on our part if ever there was one.


The next year we returned. We stayed at a cheap motel a little way down the hill. We started at the same time, and went very, very slowly. Plodding. Early on we were excruciatingly slow. Other parties passed us with abandon. Higher up on the mountain though, past the sulphur pits and on to the Hogs Back, we were cruising. It felt good to summit. The Zen of Plod. Keep within your boundaries, take it one step at a time, and you get where you are going.

Yet another triumph of humility over hubris.


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