Of Mountains and Meritocracies Part 3
While we were planning the third trip to the mountain, we came to an ironic realization during our study of the topographical maps. Each time we got to the tundra line, we kept attempting to get across the saddle to the peak on the other side. The previous two years we were headed for the lesser of the two peaks. The second year, when the military son of the leader went charging up the hill in the blizzard, he too was headed towards a shorter peak. I still don’t know if he even made it to that peak.
That year, the plan was pretty much the same as the second year. We camped at a halfway point up the mountain, then we split into a faster and a slower group the next morning and made our way up. The significant difference being that this time, the weather was actually cooperating with us as opposed to trying to murder us with its cold impartiality. The skies were clear, the temperature was moderate and the humidity was low. This time we were prepared well. I didn’t take so much weight up with me that time. I packed things like sandwiches, chips, non perishables, and a cold pack.
However, despite our best preparations, within a few hours after we started hiking from the mid way camp, everyone in the fast group was starting to wear out. That is, everyone except myself and the leaders deaf son. As the group would stop for a fifteen minute break, the deaf, rugby playing, son and myself would sit at the head of the group ready to roll out at a moment’s notice. By the time we were about an hour from the tundra our complaints started to really get to the leader. He told us that we were old enough that he could trust us to go on up ahead by ourselves. Just us two. So we did.
It was an interesting hour or two. The deaf son was the most athletic in the whole bunch. We moved quickly for the next hour, in almost silence, and made it to just below the tundra before we actually stopped for a break. During the break the Deaf son and I communicated through a mash up of charades, lip reading, and luck. The Deaf son complained that I was moving too quickly. In his words “You skinny, you move fast. Look, I fat, (he wasn’t) I slow, I need break.” Once we were watered up and ready to go, the Deaf son didn’t have much problem at all. In fact, once we hit the tundra, he took off at as quick as the rocky terrain would allow. I could sustain a decent pace over a long time, but when it came to dead sprints, the Deaf Son definitely had me beat. I watched as he got further and further ahead. Finally, to my dread, I watched the deaf son start to head up across the saddle.
I screamed his name in vain “That is the Wrong Peak. Go the other way” I laughed at the absurd futility of the situation. He couldn’t hear me, no matter how loudly I yelled. I didn’t have the tools to convince him that we were supposed to go the other peak. “I Hate You.” I yelled, half full of annoyance and half full of the humor that remains in desperation. I was at an age that I would be exiting the scouting program, probably moving away from home for a mission and for college. This was my last chance to make it to the top of the tall peak with this group of peers. So, I did the socially responsible thing, I followed to the wrong peak.
I enjoyed the minor victory of making it to a peak, even if it wasn’t the one I actually wanted. I ate my sandwich and chips. We relieved our bladders from the peak of the mountain, enjoyed the open air above us, marveled at the sight of the valley below, our camp being completely indistinguishable from the surrounding green, then headed down the mountain. As we stumbled down the snow, we saw the rest of the fast group coming up along the path… They headed to the correct peak and made it back before nightfall…
That night it was a bit embarrassing to admit to everyone that we went to the wrong peak. It was funny to watch the leader explain to his deaf son that we went to the lower of the two peaks. The Son didn’t want to believe it. But it was true.
So… What is the moral of the story? Well, that may be another blog post. I’ll meditate on it for another few days then I’ll post my final thoughts on this metaphor of life.