The sun rose late in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on February 1, bathing this pre-redemption Narnia tableau in sparkling glory. C.S. Lewis’s classic starring four brothers and sisters, talking fawns and beavers, a lion, witch and wardrobe was one of my very favorite books growing up. That admixture of adventure, eternally high stakes, children with swords, bows and arrows set my young heart racing though I didn’t understand how a world perpetually snowy was a bad thing.
I lived on the Oregon coast where it rarely snowed but perpetually rained.
I dreamed of snow, of Turkish Delight produced by dropping magic driplets from a horse-drawn sleigh into it, cozy fur blankets and, twice a year, when my family drove inland for weekends at Hoodoo Ski Bowl were absolute highlights even though there was neither Turkish Delight nor cozy fur blankets for Hoodoo’s motto spoke to my family’s ethos.
Steep, deep and cheap.
When it was time to finally escape coastal Oregon’s gloom for good, I raced to southern California then Australia then back to southern California, becoming a famous surf journalist along the way, but the snow, the mountains, haunted my dreams.
Maybe it was genetic.
My uncle-cousin is a legend in mountaineering lore. Art Gilkey, who was raised in Iowa but moved to a farm outside of Portland, Oregon after graduating university, was an early Alaskan explorer and part of the third American expedition to K2 in 1953. Their exploits, captured vividly in The Savage Mountain, detail feats of bravery, comradery, skill that are rarer and rarer in our lily-livered modernity.
The team got pinned down by a vicious storm before summiting, Gilkey developed deep vein thrombosis and cut himself loose on descent, which featured a miracle belay, to save the others. His body was discovered in 1993 melting out of glacier on the base of the mountain.
There’s something about the mountains, something about how they peel away softness, weakness, pronounced lack of will.
Artifice is laid bare, here, then abandoned because what good are our social pivots and postures when life and death hang in the balance?
I am currently wearing a pair of Kith x Moncler horse hair cheetah print alpine boots ready to cover Natural Selection’s kick-off, snow-ensconced, and its coterie of un-lily-livered men and women conquering a mountain with flair, style and bottled fear.
Tomorrow you shall meet the chosen few.
My feet shall remain luxuriously warm but also ready for anything.