Monday, March 15, 2004

On a walk to the top of Pyramid Peak, the only noise aside from the music of a breeze was the impact of my feet to the top layer of snow, and as the snow compacted, the sound of my foot finding purchase about two and a half feet lower and closer to the ground.

Nights are still cold above seven thousand feet, and though the snow on most southern faces had melted off to a remaining foot or so, the north slopes were quite well endowed with white. The approach I most often take is from the north, hence the elongated double-impact of my stride. I do use the word stride rather loosely, to boot.

The prevailing wind blows from the south, and that night was no exception. As I made my way to the ridge, I could hear the wind rustling the leafless branches in the hollow beneath the peak. The hollow is a little bowl on the western face of Pyramid Peak, with exposed limestone strata near the top and oak brush and serviceberry toward the less sloped and more sheltered bottom.

Reaching the ridge, the view to the south unfolded with the lights of Salt Lake City and the peak's west face shrouded in shadow as the moon emerged from behind. The mountain's muted, almost black and white texture in the starlight clashed starkly with the harsh city lights on either side of the ridge.

In that valley to the west, people on the freeway sped past from the Point of the Mountain to the extreme south to Willard Bay to the north. An unbroken snake of light, it stretches like a conduit from one horizon to the other. The people caught in the belly of that serpent had no concept of what was happening on either side of them, from the expansive Great Salt Lake on one hand to the sprawl of suburbia and finally the mountains in which I found myself on the other. They just needed to get somewhere.

As I climbed the ridge in the crisp breeze, I found myself thinking about the summer nights spent up here, camped just off of the summit. Sheltered from whatever wind was blowing, I would stay the night and build a small fire to signal my presence to God and man. Amongst the shale, shadscale and exposed wormwood on the peak, I would sit and watch the stars wheel above and humanity toil along below for hours. Those nights would pass quickly.

But I had little time and this night was a bit cold. Very little wood was left uncovered by this season's ample snow, so my visit would be brief and without fire.

At the summit, I was not disappointed by brevity or lack of flame. The stars as an unbroken ceiling above were brighter than I could remember them ever being, and the warmth lent by their beauty warmed better than fire. The moon's glow outlined the snowy ranges all around and gave a lustre like mercury to the lake in the valley. Only the city between lake and ranges was relatively untouched by the moon, the glaring electric lights competing with the moon's reflected sunlight in such a way as to cheat the eye of any glimpse of what lay underneath the lights and that same moon.

I stayed atop only a little while, happy in feelings felt and sights seen. The memories of past trips and companions worked their magic as well, and as I descended, my heart was glad and my eye shed only a few tears.

To me, there is nothing quite like sky and mountain coming together in my heart.

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