The mountain spoke to us through the trees and as we rounded a corner, to our amazement, the clouds were dancing. We expected such atmospheric orchestration, of course, but as many can attest expectations and reality often differ quite dramatically. Having left behind a gloomy, wet Portland our expectations had been low and our memory amiss, but the mountain faithfully struck us with its grandeur.
Our stride was light and swift, stopping only when the rusty color of a chanterelle came into view, and we said little, allowing the wind to speak and our noses to take in the forest’s pine fragrance. The season seemed to change with elevation, however, and it wasn’t long before our surroundings were that of decomposing vegetation and the aroma of wet-dog overtook our senses. A steepening slope would produce in us a stubborn gait, and with disregard to discomfort the last push toward McNeil Point was accomplished.
It was a nice surprise to find Uncage The Soul productions taking their lunch at McNeil’s stone shelter under blue skies and a warm sun. The work this team produces is a continual inspiration to my own work and it was a pleasure to talk with them for a short time. I had deduced early on that their intended direction of travel was toward the Sandy Glacier’s ice cave system and I looked forward to watching their progress as our own course would parallel above theirs. Witnessing their traverse toward base camp with what looked to be 65 pound packs (likely more) definitely diminished my level of envy for what I knew they were bound to produce.
Pressing on toward McNeil Point proper, a high rock outcrop marking the beginning of an arête between the Glisan and Sandy glaciers, kept us between the veil of two ever changing cloud systems. Like waves splashing against one another so the clouds arched, curled, and bent backward upon themselves. We stood in awe of these conditions until our legs grew weary, then we sat, and eventually laid down. Roughly three hours elapsed in this state. The setting sun was inevitable, however, and at this our descent soon proceeded.
The final four images in this photo-essay show the changes in light and color with alpenglow during these last moments on the mountain’s edge. They are depicted as accurately as possible.