I was driving home today from my solo hike up Windham high peak and this line from Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira” bounded out of my speakers. Today it was loaded with meaning for me. I set out today to bag another peak in my quest to join the Catskill 3500 club.
But today was very different from any other
solo winter trek I have done as I had decided
to dedicate it to Kate Matrosova. Since
her untimely death climbing the Presidential Peaks on 2.15.15 I have obsessively read about her trek that day.
Almost every account reiterates how crazy,
stupid, inexperienced she must have been to set out that day. The weather can change in a
second up on that ridge and kill you quickly. We all know this to be true. I’m sure Kate Matrosova knew this to be true…but rather than focus on how “crazy”
she was I wanted to honor her spirit and unflinching sense of bravery and adventure by climbing today and writing this blog.
I set out at 10 am but with a lot more caution and preparedness than
usual. Granted I was not climbing 6000 feet today in 100 mph winds but as I’ve learned shit can happen and climbing up to 3600 in teens can just as easily kill you if you are not prepared. I’ll admit it. I was nervous. Many thoughts ran through
my mind that normally never do…like hey, Karen…you have a
heart condition, or you are 52…or what if you pass out..and on and on…so many thoughts
that I could just as easily have talked myself out of the hike. I could have “stuck to some straighter line” as Joni puts it.
But I didn’t….and I won’t….and I hope to climb Mount Washington one day as well because that is who I am. That’s what makes me tick. I look at Kate’s life as
yes …tragically short but so incredibly full.
We all take chances everyday of our lives…some just take greater ones than others because their spirit beckons them to do so.
As I approached the summit I saw a figure ahead of me. I caught up to John
Dice a 79 year old Catskill Mtn 3500er who was out hiking for fun in the gorgeous weather. It put the hugest smile on my face and I kept it all the way down.
Today instead of running down to see how fast I could do the hike I decided to walk down and take in the beauty of this cold winter day. The sounds, the sights all of it. I was thinking a lot about Kate when I looked down and saw the heart in the snow (I had missed it on the way up) More smiles and tears. I get what drove Kate Matrosova to solo hike that day and all the other days she went out there.
For some …to simply not take the risk is a death.
We have to challenge ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically and yes, sometimes
it can go too far. But we know that and we take the chance anyway …we don’t expect to be
rescued. Someone who is experienced enough knows that ultimately it’s up to them and they make their choices accordingly, everything from what gear & clothing to take to whether they should even venture out.
Enough of the finger wagging at Ms. Matrosova …her short 32 years here on planet earth were in my opinion lived incredibly. Myself, I only started living at 32 when I first tried to
quit smoking and started running and hiking in the forest in order to attain that goal.
I am most alive when I am in the forest and so on my days off
that’s where you’ll find me and yes…usually alone. I know I take a chance each and every time I do it but I know the internal rewards I reap.
And so I hope like John, who I met on Windham today, that at 79 I’ll still be
taking chances and climbing mountains. Rest in peace Kate Matrosova.