September 18, 2015

Tent on Breakneck Ridge

By Clark Frauenglass
Cebolla Canyon
September 5, 2015

Four days in close proximity may have driven me a little crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy. Either way, first chance I got, I dragged my gear to the top of the nearest ridge. Straight up the steep, crumbling hillside, crawling on my hands and knees, hanging on to roots and clumps of grass, while my feet sent little avalanches of dirt and stones tumbling down below me. Okay, a lot crazy. I had to stop every ten feet to catch my breath, and my pack kept getting caught on branches and sharp boulders. Twice I almost overbalanced as a seemingly solid foothold gave way underneath me, and my pack dragged me away from the hillside. Then, all of a sudden, the ground leveled out, and I was standing in a clearing, on top of the ridge. I turned around and saw the whole valley spread out below me, tents dotted here and there throughout the meadow, and the arroyo carving it’s twisted path across the landscape and off into the distance. I pitched my tent and made camp, then began the precarious journey back down to basecamp. That’s when it started to dawn on me that this might be very tricky in the dark. Too late now. I made rock cairns to mark the path I took in the hopes they would guide me back later that evening. They didn’t. A constant stream of internal cussing accompanied every nighttime climb to bed, and every time I found my tent, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Every morning, bleary eyed and stiff from sleep, I found new and exciting ways to roll down the hill to breakfast, trying to negotiate the crumbling hillside in the pre-dawn dark. But I didn’t move. Every night, lying there in my tent, I could hear the wind whipping around the valley for miles before it hit my tent. Every time a stronger gust passed by I would imagine it picking me up like a kite, tumbling me through the air. It was awesome.

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