My nonfiction piece, “How a Mountain Goat Disappears.” was printed in Two Hawks Quarterly, Spring 2018.
I keep the first mountain I climbed in my skin. I carry it on my back, perched atop my shoulder blades, those never-grown wings. I am not concerned when others hem and haw over the finality of it all, that the ink will follow me all through my life and decompose with me, or burn, or sluff, bubble — explode? I don’t know how I’m going to die and the anticipation keeps me alive.
Years ago, I set out to climb the mountain now on my back, a fourteen thousand foot peak named, in all seriousness, Mount Sneffels, in the San Juan range of the Colorado Rockies. I had no intention of becoming a mountain climber when I set out for Sneffels. Some friends were going camping in the basin below the peak and thought it would be fun to try to climb it the next day. I didn’t realize, until I got into camp and looked up, what I would be undertaking. The San Juan peaks are memorable as a broken face; their ridgelines suggest tar-addled shattered teeth. Everything else is green, golden, and blue. Green valleys, golden skies at sun’s rise and set, water as blue as the middle-day sky.
As I worked my way up Sneffels’ flanks, my hike turned into a scramble, a scramble into a climb. I was picking my way up a razorback of granite ridgeline following the faint voices of other climbers ahead of me. I didn’t think about anything more than foot and hand placements for what felt like a long time. I abruptly froze while straddling a jutted vertebra of rock.