Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
Henrietta Climbs a Mountain
March 11, 2005
Colorado has 53 mountain peaks over 14,000 high. Many people have climbed one or more and several have conquered all 53 -- the hard way, on foot. As a lifelong lover of the state, one would think that I might have been one of them, but I must confess that I am not. Well, once I almost did, but not on foot.
A trip, some 30 or 40 years ago, took me within sight of the top of a forty-niner. I was visiting with some friends who had a cabin a mile straight up from Howard on the Arkansas River. Phett was a rock hound and wanted to show me his favorite crystal deposit, which is on the top of Mt. Antero in the Collegiate Range. Mt. Antero is most noted for gems and minerals and is the highest mineral locality in North America.
Phett told me that in 1970 a group of rock hounds doing their thing near its crest found a spot, which quickly became a hole, in which they found hundreds of aquamarines along with rock crystals and smoky quartz.
So he and his wife, Anne, and I took off in their Scout to see the hole. When we left the pavement, we had about 15 miles of fairly good road until we came to a sign which said, "This is not a public road -- Impassable." Of course, we turned into it immediately, went into low-low and stayed there. The boulders were fair size (like medicine balls for example) but we either straddled them or went around them.
Most of the time I thought of Richard Halliburton's reason for climbing the Matterhorn. If I had leaned out the window I could have spit a mile. On the few fairly level stretches there were streams so clear we drank out of them.
Seven miles later we emerged from the trees and there was Mt. Antero in her utter barren, ferocious, lonely majesty -- 3000 feet straight up.
Now I am no flatlander, but when I saw that trail to the top, the one designed for mules and wagons, the one Phett intended to drive up in his Scout, I announced that I wouldn't go up that road if he paid me in gold bullion. My reputation for cowardice was intact.
Anne and I split off at timberline. I will never know again except in memory the absolute beauty of that afternoon as we walked through the talus. There were tiny wild flowers growing out of the rock, and icy streams underfoot. From that spot we could see seven mountains over 14,000 feet high, with their barren tops and lovely green flanks.
Perhaps it was the altitude, but we became philosophers, discussing eternity, creation and life. This was not long after I had read "The Crystal and the Colloid," and I found myself thinking about my relation to the mountain, about the crystals which had lain there for millions of years and humans just a few years old. Surely without the mountains the humans would be incomplete.
But we had to come back down to earth and the road helped us back to reality literally and figuratively.
Although I didn't do it the hard way, or get all the way to the summit, I knew then why men and women climb mountains. \
Schiller wrote, "On the mountains there is freedom. The world is perfect everywhere."