The snow was hard packed early in the morning, but I still couldn’t look down at the view. Stopping in the middle of the snowfield, Elaine had her camera out snapping photos and oohing over the vista. I stood completely still and stared at my boots, dead center on the narrow path trodden into the snow. It hadn’t looked that far taking the first step and I had no idea how many more I’d be required to take to get back to the rocks and dirt. When we began moving again, my view was limited to the heels of Elaine’s boots. I kept telling myself, “Just one more step. Take one more step.”
Reaching the other end of the snowfield, it was another quarter mile up the boulder field and down to the lake at the base of the diamond face of the mountain. No problem. I don’t mind boulder fields. The PB and J with Cheez-Its was particularly good this day as we sat by the lapping water.
“Come on. We need to get below tree line before those clouds get here.”
“Yeah. I know.” Sighing, I put on my pack and down the boulder field we went.
“We better put our chinks on; that snow’ll be slick by now.”
Thank you, sun, I thought. Chinks or no chinks, I really wanted to call for search and rescue to send a copter. I could see tourist hikers crossing in tennis shoes. Someone was going to die, tumbling down that snow field and onto the rocks a million feet below.
Crowded now, the snow had become very slick with the warm sun and the too many feet on the narrow path.
The guy behind me wanted me to go faster. I took a few tentative steps, trying to stay with Elaine. I felt him tailgating me. I knew I was going to slide off. Sweat was soaking through to my outer jacket. I could feel the uneven thud trying to leap out from my chest. I wanted some water but couldn’t even reach for the hose on my right pack strap.
Pushing. Pushing. Pushing. “Get off my back, dude. Just give me some space.”
Breathe. Step. Breathe. Step. Breathe. Step. And finally solid rock. As the guy passed me, I flipped him off. Take that, I thought, as Elaine and I moved down the trail and back into the trees.