My Ascent of Petit Grepon
My Ascent of the Petit Grepon ... and the lingering after effects...

by Keith L. Cowing

29 July 1991 9:00 PM EDT
United #2759 outbound from Washington, DC
to Huntsville, Alabama

I managed to time this flight rather nicely. We reached our cruising altitude of 24,000 feet a few minutes ago. Off to my right the last rays from the setting sun have caused the dust laden portions of the atmosphere to phosphores in shades of purple and red. Quite a sight - perfect for reflecting back on the events of the past few days. I spend a lot of my time living in the sky aboard airplanes and have long since gotten used to being one place one day, another place thousands of miles away the next, and then back home again a day later only to do so again in a week's time. When you run around as much as I do you learn to savor every possible opportunity to pause and reflect on things not associated with work.

I have my MAC portable cranked up and my fingers are whirling away while I flirt above the darkening landscape at 500 miles per hour. My fingers are being propelled at a similar speed by an deluge of stored impressions. The words seem to come gushing out. It is all I can do to channel them through my fingers onto the screen.

You see, something really amazing happened the other day. A mere 48 hours ago I was hiking out of the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National park after having completed an ascent of Petit Grepon, an 800 foot sheer column of rock - the most spectacular climb I have ever done. Only now am I able to pause and capture my recollections in writing. I must do so now, while they are fresh so as to help anchor as much detail as possible. This experience needs to be remembered for a long time.

Climbers call the experience you get from hanging out on a cliff "exposure". The more exposure, the better the climb. To try and explain the term is analogous to asking a Zen master to explain his beliefs - he might say something as circuitously profound as "those that know don't speak: those that speak don't know." I am by no means a master of climbing, so suffice it to say that "exposure" is a profound sense of being where you are. The more profound the location, the more profound the sensation. Life don't get much more real. Some people would call me an adrenaline junkie. Those that speak don't know, I suppose. I guess I have this thing about maximizing my appreciation of where I am at any given time.

The best way to recount the climb is to give you an annotated play by play.


Text, HTML coding, and imagery ©copyright 1996 Keith Cowing
Right header photo ©copyright 1996 John Day