Tuesday, February 11, 2014

High Places

The truth is that my career being exposed to heights had rather inglorious beginnings.

When I was six years old, my first grade class took a field trip to Carnation Farms in the rural Snoqualmie Valley of Eastern King County, Washington.  The morning was filled with uneventful childhood bliss of goat petting, hay rides, chicken chasing and likely pestering my mother to buy me sugar treats.  My joyous enterprise however, came to screeching halt shortly after lunch when the class went for a short walk in the Tolt MacDonald Park.  All went well until I approached the banks of the Snoqualmie River.   Hoards of my screaming classmate enthusiastically clamored past across the precariously hung wooden swing bridge to the other side of the river as I stopped dead in my tracks as panic overtook me.  There I stood, paralyzed in fear, sure the bridge would collapse the minute I set foot and deliver me to an icy death in the depths of the raging Snoqualmie River below.

Neither my loving Mother nor my dear teacher Ms. Scrindy could convince me otherwise, and it wasn't until the kind-hearted Roundhill Twins, Jenny & Chrissy, noticed my episode of panic and escorted me by hand across the bridge and was I delivered from this most embarrassing of calamities.

Why or how I would grow up to be a climber of mountains, waterfalls and rock cliffs I do not clearly understand myself.  As we steeply ascended terribly exposed friable schist outcrops of the Cascade Saddle Route in Mount Aspiring National Park, I revisited this question in my head.  Jenny would be perfectly happy with the views from the valley below or walking along beaches of sand near the breaking surf of the ocean, but something draws me upwards, always just a bit little higher, until there is nowhere to go but down.  Maybe the simplicity and singular focus required to get safely up and down from dangerous places quiets the internal noise of living in an overly complicated world.  Maybe the grandiose expanse of being in the mountains reminds me that no matter how we scar this planet with the viral human condition that the world will go marching on without us.  And just maybe I am still trying to outrun the humiliation of an awkward toe-headed and toothless boy standing at the edge of the Snoqualmie River nearly weeing in his pants at the thought of crossing a perfectly safe trestle from one side to the another.

In all honestly, I am not sure what draws me to high places, I just know that I am little happier person when I come back down.

Kloshe konaway
Kloshe nanitch    


 Emerald green water of the Copeland River, Copeland Valley New Zealand.

 Hottub with a view.  Welcome Flats in the Copeland Valley.

 Mount Sefton glowing in the distance and Scott Peak in the foreground.

 Douglas Rock Hut, upper Copeland Valley.

 Navigator Range from the upper Copeland Valley.

 Lyttle Peak over the Copeland River.

Brewster Track, Mount Aspiring National Park. 

Top of Mount Armstrong with Mount Brewster in the Distance. 

 The worlds only alpine parrot, the mischievous Kea is reputed to be the smartest bird in the world.

 Not a bad place to stay the night.  Brewster Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Jenny fired up about the sunshine in the West Matukituki River Valley, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 The Cascade Saddle Route in Mount Aspiring National Park is one of the most stunning and picturesque "hikes" I have ever been on. 

Dart Glacier, Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Rob Roy Peak from high on French Ridge in Mount Aspiring National Park.

 Decent view of Mount Barff.

 Don't go down there.

 French Ride Hut, Mount Aspiring National Park.


  1. Alford you are the best! Most wonderful Christmas Card just showed up in my mailbox! :)

    - Kowalski

  2. gorgeous pics matt. looks like your adventures continue to be fantastic. erbeck misses you guys though. big time.