Back when I was strong I wanted to climb the Petit (in the middle above.) We lived in Estes for five years, 30 minutes drive from the trailhead, and I never did it. Long approach. Nasty weather. Whatever. Last week I got up it, and in the process remembered a lesson I learned at a party years ago.
It was at a magnificent timber framed house on untold acres. An acquaintance, Doc, had built it with his father and grandfather. They’d used no nails, pinning it together with pegs cut from native wood. Doc had been a video boater for rafting company in the New River Gorge and had earned a reputation as a fearless paddler. Now he had a kid and a wife and he was taking engineering classes at the local community college.
The crowd was eclectic; paddlers and climbers, good ol’ boys and a young rock band that played beneath miniature Japanese lanterns on the house’s tiered deck. Suspended from a tree next the buffet was a Papier-mâché Raven with an unlit torch in its mouth. It’s wings were six feet across and it had a slot in its back. On the deck railing beneath it sat a pad and pencil. I asked Doc what was up. “Write down your worries,” he said, “and put the paper in raven’s back.” So I did. As darkness fell Doc gathered the crowd in a field behind the house. In the fading light I saw a huge slash pile of logs and brush in the tall grass. Doc climbed a tree and tied the raven to a long cable that led to the pile. I saw the flick of a lighter, the blazing torch, and the raven dove down the cable, flames trailing, and crashed into the wood. The bonfire lit the field and the faces around me. We watched in awe as our worries rose on the sparks and disappeared into the twilight.
The Petit was full of worries. Early start, devious pitches, getting off route (sorry Hugh), gray skies, high winds, rumbling thunder… But this time it just didn’t seem like a big deal. I’d have been as happy to bail as tag the summit, content to hang with Hugh in the mountains. And maybe that’s why it worked – we hucked the raven at the worry of it all. And, surprisingly, caught fire.
Alpine dawn in Loch Vale.
Broaching the headwall into the Sky Pond Cirque.
Winter’s bones bleached by summer sun.
I figured “grepon” meant nail. But Dougald MacDonald actually looked it up. Seems Grépon is is most likely derived from various Franco-Germanic or Celtic words for “rock.” More specifically, the site said, grépon means “rock” in the patois of Haute Savoie. More specifically, it may originate from the dialect term ‘greup,’ which means a steep, rocky slope made mostly of slabs.
Hugh gettin’ a little rodeo at the summit.
The long decent. High winds and 200-foot ropes are a nervous affair.
Afternoon sun after the decent. Shouldn’t have worried after all!