What follows is a love story.
I remember when it started, that simple, this-is-all-I-ever-wanted kind of love, with no complications or questions or uncertainties. It was young love, love that consumed me, blinded me with its perfection, made me feel that every day was a carefree frolic through wildflower-dotted meadows stretching beneath mountains of unspeakable vastness. There were solitary treks to breathtaking beauty, quiet nights under a blanket of stars, the rush of wind and rain as I was head-over-heels for this, all of it – the mountains, my heart’s deepest desire. Surely, I thought, as I gazed at each landscape draped in snow or gouged with jagged boulders, I had reached the pinnacle of life itself.
Oh, how narrow is our view when we are young.
Through skiing and backpacking, I developed a fierce love for the mountains, one I thought superlative to all else. I understood them, and when I escaped to them, I in turn felt understood. I settled into the contented rhythm of my chosen forms of wilderness exploration, a few nights alone with a stove and a tent, or a short hike from the top of the lift to the powder-laden bowl above a ski resort. It was enough for me.
But the mountains had other plans.
On a late-winter trip trough the Rockies with the man who would later become my husband, a crack began to form in my love for the mountains. As we scaled looming walls of vertical sandstone and swung our ice tools into shimmering frozen waterfalls, that crack seeped the superficiality and meekness that characterizes not true love, but merely childish affection. His stories of alpine adventures made my fingers tingle and heart pound as I discovered a part of the mountains, the thing I thought I loved above all else, that I scarcely knew existed.
I refused to become the old woman who had missed her chance.
We began to train, to climb, to conquer multi-pitch routes and scramble up exposed peaks. But while my love for the mountains morphed and matured, a small seed also began to grow, unknown to me in the comfort of my former exploits: fear. A fear of failure and its consequences, of falling short and facing my own inadequacy, grew like a festering sore within my heart, tainting this love that was once so bright and unadulterated with its black cloud of doubt.
And I want it gone.
Now that I’ve seen, I cannot go back. I have tasted the fruit of intimacy with these mountains; to let it escape after such a fleeting romance would leave me standing naked and alone. I want to summit, to beat this fear, because I know that in so doing my devotion to the mountains will only grow until we can simply sit in each other’s company, like the elderly couple who has together endured a lifetime of trial and triumph. I want to prove myself worthy of this place.
Love must conquer fear.