A decade ago, I looked up at Mount Dana. Last weekend, I summoned my inner Captain Ahab and attempted to climb that very same Yosemite Valley peak.
Mount Dana is located on the eastern side of Yosemite Valley. It is approximately 13,053 feet higher than the beach. If you attempt to scale it, you may find yourself fantasizing about being on said beach.
I had attempted to mount the fair Mount Dana twice before. I was impotent both times. The second time I gave up because no one was looking. The first time, thanks to the timely intervention of the Good Lord, I barely escaped with my life. Back then, the walking I did was to my car. I had never hiked at altitude. It’s like the difference between (a) hitting on some girl in class and (b) hitting on Beyonce’… in front of Jay Z… at the Grammy’s… on stage. I was poorly prepared. Physically, I was 38, which is perfect for walking into restaurants, but not so much for scaling peaks. Mentally, I was far worse. A good woman had exited my life, stage left. We were supposed to go camping. I went anyway.
Armed with nothing, I trudged up Mount Dana. I stopped half way. Two reasons. First, because evidently hiking requires water and I had none. Second, because the aforementioned woman had advised me to trudge less and look more. So I sat down. I absorbed the stunning vistas. At peace with my hiking failure, I lay my head down on the green grass, looked inward and fell asleep. Had I looked upward and stayed awake, I might have noticed the considerable storm clouds and lightening forming. I did not. Time passed on. I slept on. Danger drew close. That’s when the Good Lord yanked on my pants… dressed as a Marmot.
I awoke to find Good Lord Marmot staring at me. He wanted to make sure I didn’t dismiss his storm warning and go back to sleep. How easy that would have been. The grass was soft. I was single. It was Sunday. I was well practiced at falling back asleep in such situations. That’s how I knew it was God. Because he knew me. To accentuate his point, he unleashed a thunderclap that made my buttocks clench for the next 3.75 years. Since he knew it was coming, Good Lord Marmot didn’t flinch. Without pausing to thank him (not proud of that) I raced down the hill, sucking in oxygen and slurping up raindrops. By the time I reached my car, I was soaked to the skin. Wet, thirsty and exhausted, I drove away… alive… obviously.
Last weekend, with the help of two friends, Scott and Stephanie, and no Marmots, I attempted my third assault on Mount Dana. We lost Scott, our driver and firestarter, due to altitude sickness at 12,500 feet. Stephanie and I trudged on. The last third of the mountain is nothing but jagged rock, whipped and beaten by the types of storm that had whipped and beaten me lo those many years ago. Stephanie put a moratorium on all negative utterances. Like two Brady Bunch kids in the final act of any episode, we positively worked our way up the mountain. The Summit came like so many evil villains, with a whimper, not a roar. Older and wiser, I didn’t sleep. I looked at the Mountains bleeding down into the Valleys. I looked at the Valleys washing down into the Lakes. But most of all, thanks to a little help from my friends today and a watchful marsupial so long ago, I looked down on Mount Dana.