Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Close Enough To Touch

Anyone who has lived in or been to Seattle knows about THE MOUNTAIN -- Mount Rainier.  It sits southeast of the city and literally dominates the horizon, rising up to 14,410 feet from sea level.  Since Seattle is at sea level it makes it look even more massive.  When THE MOUNTAIN is "out", you can't help but stare at it -- like a car wreck on the road (and I'm sure the sight of it has caused a few car wrecks).  My friend Garland who moved from Tampa (were it's so flat there is no horizon at all)  earlier this year noticed that whenever I drive over the West Seattle bridge I habitually look over towards the southeast when i get to the top of it to see if THE MOUNTAIN is out.  Even after twenty years it doesn't get old.  There are days when the atmosphere is such that it magnifies THE MOUNTAIN and makes it look even closer than the 90 or so miles away that it is.  

There was a time about ten years ago that I thought seriously about climbing it.  It was in 1999 when Everest was in the news a lot after the discovery of the body of George Mallory, the first man to make or attempt to make the summit of Everest.  No one knows if he did or not, and he disappeared back in 1924 near the summit.  His body was found by a Seattle mountain climbing legend Eric Simonson in 1999.  That was also the year I decided to try to attempt Rainier.  I trained all summer -- hiking about West Seattle wearing a backpack with 50 pounds of weight.  Tony and I tried to climb the highest peak in Utah that year as well as a training exercise and failed miserably, which kind of put a damper on the whole Rainier thing. Hell if we couldn't make it up a dry, non-snow covered 13,000 foot mountain, there is no way we could tackle a glacier covered 14,000 one -- especially one that is used to train Everest teams.   And even though I realized I couldn't climb it -- I still dream about making it to the top.

So flying down to Salt Lake today I was on a small plane -- Delta Airlines having given up on flying real jets between Salt Lake and Seattle and resorting to CRJ commuter jets which fly at a lower altitude.  (I refuse to fly coach in Southwest Airlines cattle cars -- the only other airline with non-stops to SLC).   It was a partly cloudy day when we left SeaTac, but cleared up right after take off and the pilot decided he'd give us a scenic tour of Mt. Rainier. 
As you can see, it was almost close enough to reach out and touch.  He dipped his wings and detoured around THE MOUNTAIN a bit,  and you could see just how massive THE MOUNTAIN really is.  I thought I could reach out and scoop up some snow if the window would open.  We were at an altitude just slightly above the summit too, much lower than you'd be in a conventional jet.  It made the mountain seem even larger and closer.
Almost makes me want to try and climb it again.  Almost.  In looking up the dates for Mallory today while writing this I came across the pictures of his frozen white body.  I'd probably end up like him.  It's now been 10 years since I trained -- and while my good friend Senator Adam Kline who is a good 10 years older than I am (and drives a damn Prius, but I'll forgive him) has climbed it more than once, I'm not in his shape, nor will I ever be.  So i guess I'll be content to fly around it, and to look at it whenever its "out", and imagine being on top.

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