Mountain Madness


MOUNTAIN MADNESS

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Much Madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense-the starkest Madness-
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent- and you are sane-
Demur- you’re straightway dangerous-
And handled with a Chain-

– Emily Dickinson (1830 -1886)

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My road trip to the West, with hopes to traverse through Montana this month was interrupted a few weeks back by a really bad car crash that completely ‘killed’ the car. Hit by a speeding angry 4 x 4 Dodge Truck. In Racine, Wisconsin on lake Michigan north of Chicago.

Saved by 1 foot of metal buffer – a complete T-collision and I’d have been dead smoked meat now. The hit was so bad that the car’s chassis broke in 2 parts. It really came out of nowhere. A deafening crash, Boom and I’m looking into an overpowering White Bright Light and smoke before my eyes which 2 seconds later I realize is my face in my white bright air bag and burning rubber. I’ve had brushes with death before but I’ve been thanking the safety engineers of Toyota and the inventor of the air bag and seat belt ever since this particular brush. The impact was so strong, the seat belt casing got ripped apart. No injuries, thankfully, though the mechanic thinks it’s a miracle given the impact and the fact that the front half of my car is gone. Had bought a new Toyota in 2006. R.I.P. mon voiture.

The truck driver was safe and sound, arrogant, strutting around, unapologetic despite speeding 30 miles over the speed limit and even to the policeman’s shock not once, that’s right, not once came over to ask how I was doing. Kind friendly mid-westerners from the residential neighbourhood where it occurred poured out. So in August, I’ve decided to celebrate life again and place only pictures…..a breather from the lengthy posts. Perhaps I was writing those long posts in July as ‘therapeutic’ writing after the crash. I’ll make a little video as some more self-invented therapy to recover further from the horror of death-so-close and as a little goodbye to the silver car that had served me so well and traveled thousands of miles from the Florida Keys whence I viewed tropical fishes in the South to the very North of Quebec close to Lac St.Jean national park areas, the fjords of Saguenay and the Taddoussac region where the giant whales live, and from Cape Cod in the east to Chicago……alas, its death occurred in Racine (‘Root’ in French) Wisconsin, but its metal and safety features saved my life.

Drive safe everyone! And watch out for crazy speeding drivers. And thank the unnamed, unseen automobile engineers who design cars so well these days, that if one gets lucky, one can still walk out of high-impact crashes without a scratch. And thank the ephemeral gift of life. So precious. So short.

So since I couldn’t take pictures of Montana, I decided to celebrate here instead memories from earlier trips to mountain worlds. Among my six ethnic mixes covering both Northern and Southern European lands and the Mediterranean Waters and Dead Sea, I also have the presence of the mountain worlds of the northern Himalayas in my mix…..the call of the mountains is very strong in my blood, and a passion for mountaineering and ice-climbing. So strong was the call to dwell in the mountains, I’d ended up being a Buddhist monk for 3 months in my early 20s up in the mountains – not so much for any religious reasons but because I figured the best way for free boarding and lodging in the most breathtaking views of the Himalayas was to be a monk instead of the restricted weeks of shivering treks and flimsy tents that as mountaineers we have to brave. These are pictures from some of my favourite climbing ranges through the years – the Kumaon range of the Himalayas, India (bordering Tibet), the Kanchenjunga range (in Sikkim bordering Nepal which has the third highest mountain peak of the world), Bhutan, Ladakh and closer home, the ranges in Canada.

I usually don’t take too many photographs as I like recording pictures like movies in my mind instead (an anomaly which is both a blessing and a curse – especially when it comes to being unable to forget.) But these trips have always overwhelmed me with the sheer beauty and scale of the magnitude of the landscapes – pictures in my mind which I hope never to forget and hold with possessive passion. Mountain worlds dotted with terraced hills, tall trees, monasteries, enchanted forests, mountain lakes and days and nights in hard core mountaineering. There’s no other way to put it – I madly love mountain lands and some day, I will go to Montana, though this trip got interrupted.

Upwards & Onward! (as one brave lady on my blogroll always says.) No matter how dampening the downers in life may be…And mountains are a reminder that it’s possible to walk in the clouds. And climb every cliff. With your own sweat and determination (and, er…piolets and crampons.) After every storm in life. And breathe again the fresh air of freedom…….and thank one’s luck each time one does so. To be born on this planet. For the gift of human life. And the responsibilities it entails.

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Ladakh – the highest plateau of the world

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Ladakh

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A monastery in Ladakh at night

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A gorge in the Kumaon range

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The Kumaon range of the Himalayas – on the way to the Kafni & Pindhari Glaciers

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Approaching the peak – the 16 day uphill climb gets closer to the final leg up the summit

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Celebrating my b’day in June with a Himalayan trek. 1997. (My lucky climbing sweater – I’ve had it for more than a decade. And wear it in the last leg of every climb through the years.)

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Terraced valley in Sikkim

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The breathtaking Kanchengyao around lake Gurudongmar in northern Sikkim.  The Kanchenjunga is one of my favourite ranges for mountaineering, apart from the Kumaon range. Its highest peak has a 28,169 ft elevation. The 2.75 sq. mile state of Sikkim is home to the red panda.

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Kanchenjunga range viewed near Darjeeling…a call of the wild I cannot deny.

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minus 25 degree celsius – the walk before the ice climb. 2008.

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Ice, Ice! (this picture is in Canada not in the Himalayas)

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Raphael – our ‘lead’ climber

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My parka and three layers of clothing to keep the cold out, but the exercise still makes one sweat

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Fire on ice

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Guillaume reaches on

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2006. We’re envious of those who have shoes with inbuilt spikes ;)

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The rest of us use old-fashioned external crampons on our shoes….

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Banff…in the summer

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Bhutanese monastery in the Himalayas

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Perched on the rocks…

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at the edge of a cliff…location, location – that’s what helps monks with the meditation ;-)

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Mountain Magnolia

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Kumaon range. Near Nanda devi peak

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On and..

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on and on.

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The team on one of the climbs

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A little rest, at last.  Un petit plaisir de la vie avec du thé chaud sur la glace

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Uttarakhand Nanda Devi

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” It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

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A small update: By coincidence, Randall Munroe put up this cartoon 2 weeks after this post on his XKCD website. It just seemed to tie in so well with the ED quote and near-death-car-crash I’d started this with, thought I’d place his cartoon:

xkcd _ the carriage



10 thoughts on “Mountain Madness

  1. These landscapes are amazing!

    Thank goodness you’re safe after the crash! I have to second d and say yes, this post is inspiring.
    You are inspiring. It is so refreshing to see a woman who follows her own joy and never gives up.

  2. These pics make me want to pack up my bags and leave the city and go up these mountains! In the summertime though ;-) Ice-climbing is super-tough – awesome you do that! Not too many girls do it, do they? Isn’t it an extreme extreme sport?

    So glad you’re ok. So very glad.

    Best wishes.

  3. Hey d, Miss K-S & Fiddler,

    Thanks so much for your comments! I’m on the road and didn’t check in for a bit.

    @ Fiddler – yes mountain ice climbing is an extreme extreme sport – the low temperatures and winds make it worse. They don’t even make climbing shoe sizes for women – I wear the smallest size men’s shoes. But the exhileration is just mind-blowing and makes the climb worth it. I’ve been lucky so far – survived only one avalanche once in the Himalayas but it’s important for the lead climber to be good. That’s what makes the difference.

  4. thanks for pointing me at this post, had missed it.

    interesting contrasts and connections! – near death in a car, but saved by engineers. potential near death situations in mountains, but protected by good guides and good training (and the engineers of all that equipment of course, but we get everywhere, as I think you’ve noted elsewhere :o)

    have you done any climbing on skis? that’s my love, and so far all in French Alps, under Mt Blanc. a few pics on my FB but I’m crap at photography!

    I find ice climbing just too scary, but have basic skills to get out of tight spots when ski climbing. and crampons on ski boots are a challenge too!

    hope you get time to post more about your adventures again soon….

    jb

  5. Stupid to comment on something so old, but I loved the pictures of ladakh, sikkim and Kumaon. Many years ago a part fo a long journey, I rode up the old road to Darjeeling, had a cup of chai in an dirt-floor chai shop, and watched the Himalayas & Karakorums? on 2 (3?) sides.
    So, thanks to you, I will have to now go by foot.

    • Thank you Alienheartbeat for reading an commenting…and there is nothing stupid about commenting on something old. In fact it is encouraged, as I haven’t found time lately to keep this blog updated as much as I should.

      It seems you have led a very interesting life! I loved some of the posts on your own blog.

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