I’ve stopped a few hundred feet below Hope Pass, on a pathway leading up to a saddle so steep that I can smell the earthen trail in front of me, taste it even. I’ve been climbing for some forty minutes, the bulk of the elevation gained in just two miles, over one thousand feet per mile total. I stopped to drink greedily from a clear and ice cold mountain stream, dunking my hat and my shirt to cool me on the climb.
I have only a few more minutes hard graft separate me from this particular high point but, as I draw closer, I realise I’m reluctant to rush. The valley stretching out behind me, through which I have already walked some twelve miles this morning to this point, is amongst one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Luscious mixed pines cling to the higher slopes lending a vanilla caramel smell to the air in the early days heat, below that young Birch trees abound, their white trunks lending a spectacular light to the forest, their green leaves hanging like medallions and shivering in the breeze. I love walking through these forests above all else and the eight cool and flat miles I journeyed through them this morning after descending from Ann Lake were an absolute joy. Above are soaring mountains, stretching 5000ft above the valley bottom, I’m almost at eye level with some but, even from my lofty perch at 12500ft, many are looming over me also.
The moment I cross over this pass, save for the luxurious few minutes when I will see both ways, past and future, hills climbed and hills yet to climb, I know I will likely never set eyes on this valley again. I can, of course, take pictures but they can’t come close to the real thing, the smells and the sounds and the feelings that I have right now.
I climbed two-thousand-six-hundred feet to be here, later in the morning than I’d have liked so the heat is intense. The final challenge of yesterday, Lake ann pass, proving challenging enough to cut my hike short by six miles.
Now, as I sit here with his beautiful valley below me, surrounded by wild alpine flowers and having spent this last twenty minutes contemplating my past, I realise I now look forward to the future. So now, with a heave and a groan I will shoulder my pack and finish this climb… I cannot wait to see what’s on the other side.