Tuesday, June 1, 1982

AT THE 10,000' HUT

AT THE 10,000' HUT

The glacier rose up like a tongue
lolling out of the frigid mouth of the north.
I climbed over an ice wall
to trudge to the summit.
Ptarmigans, in half-summer plumage
chuckled in the undergrowth
of huckleberry and mountain heather.
The sun warmed us as our feet
crunched over rotten snow.

From the Olympics,
a sudden summer storm growled in,
threatening snow.
Dressed only in summer gear,
we were foolishly alone on the mountain.

The first sign of hypothermia
is the rhythmic rotation of frozen fingers
and your numb cheeks no longer sting.
Earlobes feel warm,
and your skin turns from red to blue.
The white patches of creamfat
like small islands adrift on your skin
are the first signs of frostbite.
Then, the overwhelming need to sleep,
euphoric warmth, and dreams—
a jumbled series of memories
out of proper sequence, take you in farther.
Soon, you reconstruct your memories
to fit the shapes of snowdrifts,
and you float into that warm tide of snow.

A thunderbolt cracked,
stirring the thick air and our senses.
Ptarmigans dove for cover
as snowflakes settled on their mottled backs.
We turned and ran down the mountain,
each gigantic stride brought us closer to home. 

At lower elevations, the snow turned to hail,
then to rain, whipping our legs,
as we descended to Paradise Lodge
nested on the slopes of Rainier
2,000 ft. below the hut, to safety.

6/82
slight revision
2/2017



AT THE 10,000 ft. HUT

The glacier rose up like a tongue
lolling out of the frigid mouth of the north.
Ptarmigans, half-white, half-brown feathered,
chuckled in the low undergrowth
of huckleberry and mountain heather.

The sun warmed us as the crunch of our feet
over rotten snow carried us to the summit
A thunderbolt cracked
stirring the thick air and our senses.
ptarmigans dove for cover
as snow drifted down on their mottled backs.

Hypothermia begins with
rhythmic rotation of frozen fingers.
Soon, the numbed cheeks cease to sting.
ear lobes feel warm
and ruddy skin darkens purple.
white patches of creamfatted skin
are the first stages of frostbite.

One begins to feel the need to sleep. 
enveloped in such euphoric warmth
and the dreams—
a jumbled series of memories tumble forth
out of proper sequence, as they take you in further
Soon memories are reconstructed
to fit the shape of snowdrifts
and then you float into that warm tide of snow
smiling.

6/82
slight revision 2/2017
not sure if this was the final version or the draft

6/82—I don't know the date. If I find the handwritten version....not bloody likely, as I didn't keep a proper journal that year. Many poems were written on napkins, odd scraps of paper, and stuffed loose in a folder. This date is as good as it gets.

From the pre-eletronic days, I was writing of an experience from ca. 1975, or 76, when my first boyfriend, Bob Hamilton and I hiked up Mt. Rainier, to the Sierra Club hut, only to be caught in a storm fiercely rolling in from the Pacific, laden with snow. The hut was right above us, we could almost touch it.

Since we were dressed for summer, tank top and shorts, we knew we couldn't stay and wait it out. We'd freeze to death. And so, we decided to RUN down the mountain.

It was a gloriously wild freefall descent 2000 feet down the mountain to Paradise Lodge, I felt like a bird on the wing tumbling in the wind. We got to the lodge as the storm broke. I think hot chocolate by the roaring fire was in order.

The poem has potential. Will I ever make an efile of it? Probably not.

I do love the fact that it's typed on Sonoma County Stump stationery.

added 10/16


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