15 September 2009

Flash of Light

I've always been afraid of and yet mesmerized by lightning. My dad was injured in a lightning-related incident before I was old enough to go to school. A next door neighbor's tree was hit, knocked down and set ablaze by the loudest bolt I've ever heard when I was about 7. And yet, I can hardly resist setting up the tripod when I see flashes.

I've debated for two weeks now whether I should move Ferenc' recounting of our Challenger/Kit Carson trip from my Geocities website that will disappear in a couple of weeks or if I should just let go of this tragic episode that left such an impression on my life.

I finally decided to preserve the memory because Stano's loss and Martina's life taught me to respect the elements. I don't want to forget them, and I don't want to forget the lessons I learned that week. I also cherish Ferenc' writing style. He did a beautiful job with his tribute.

After we returned from Challenger Point and Kit Carson and before we learned of Martina, I wrote my naïve and light-hearted trip report (republished here Monday), admitting to being so scared I couldn’t continue up the mountain. Climbers more experienced than me seized the opportunity to belittle me, mock me and make fun of my fear because "there's nothing hard about that mountain."

For three days, I hung my head in shame because I was an outcast and wimp among my peers. But then we heard the news via Ferenc' trip report.

As I read Ferenc' words the first time, a knot formed in my stomach. I knew my fear on Challenger Point was rooted in something deeper than the rocks on which I was climbing and steeper than the trail I was ascending. I believe Someone was trying to tell me I needed to get down off that mountain. Now. Not after I reach the summit. Not after I take five or six more pictures. NOW. I move very slowly, and mere minutes could have resulted in a different outcome for me. Something in my gut told me it was time to turn back, and it wasn’t a feeling I could ignore. Yes, I was scared, but I’m not so sure now the mountain is what put that fear in me.

There is a saying mountaineers often quote but, in my opinion, don't always live by: "The mountain will still be there tomorrow. Will you be?"


  1. If you had not turned back, finished packing, got down that mountain. WOW!

  2. I have been in the woods a with lightning a couple of times where it was striking all around. It is a very humbling experience. You realize you have no control over the situation you got yourself into. Fortunately we were OK. One time a small tree about 100 yards away was hit and burst into flames. Another time, I did not see the lightning exactly, just saw the flash and felt the deafing crack at the same time. The ground across the meadow about 50 yards away seemed to jump into the air and then fall back down. After it all passed we walked acoss and all we could figure out was that the big tree at the edge of the meadow must have been hit and the dirt that was thrown into the air must have been over the roots of the tree.

    Nice photo on this post. Did you take it?

  3. Will, I'm so glad you were okay! What a scary experience!

    Yes, the photo is mine. May have to share the story behind the shot some day...


Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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