It was just after seven o’clock on what was shaping up to be an unseasonably warm, sunny, late September morning, and I sat perched on a rock outcrop at the top of St. Mary’s Glacier, about a thousand feet above the little hamlet of Alice, Colorado. I rifled fruitlessly through my pack, hoping to find something more appetizing than an ancient, misshapen Clif bar.
Bix, long since resigned to going along with any number of harebrained schemes, fiddled with a half-empty Nalgene bottle, perhaps in an attempt to avoid making eye contact with the slope below us.
Near the end of my twenty-third summer, I got it in my head that I should try free soloing. It wasn’t in a single moment that the idea came to me, but rather over the course of a disaster-style summer, punctuated by a series of nudges in that direction.
Kids at work ask me all the time where I live. I always point at my little Kelty two-man tent, and they almost never believe me.
“No way, Miss!” they exclaim in a tone of mixed disbelief and curiosity. I must seem almost crazy enough for it to be true. The tents we set up for kids will sleep ten in a pinch; my tiny two-man (which is for one person, really) looks to them far too small to sleep even one adult human. Often, a kid will ask if it’s a tent for dogs. They want to know if I have a TV in there.
My initial flirtation with Funemployment this January turned into a steamy love affair, and things got a little out of hand. I thought I had a job lined up to start in the middle of February, but a series of setbacks finally ended in the realization that I was going to have to work something else out. By then, though, I’d gotten used to skiing every day and having time to eat and sleep in addition to attending class, and “figuring something else out” was something I kept saying I was doing but was really just kind of ignoring and hoping it’d go away.