With Respect To Walt Whitman…

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,

Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes?

Pioneers! O pioneers!

30 March 2010. 11:53 PM. It is late on a Tuesday night and the gravity of the project now known as “Four Saturdays” is staring me in the face. There is no poetry in my scrambled mind tonight, save for the eloquence of a neatly crafted gear pile, my own homage to dad’s Type-A packing disorder instilled at a young age. Pioneers, o pioneers. Whitman comes to mind; our weapons consist of wood core p-tex 2×4’s. The sharp edged axes relays an adequate description. Mean Jean eyes my planning with an uncertainty that I have not seen in her before. Four Saturdays will certainly test the aerobic potential of my own being, the internal dialogue I have not engaged with in years, and the numbness to the fact that danger looms in a more realistic way when separated from family by a continent, a train ride, a high-alpine tour. Even now, last night at home, and my mind has already logged out of this version of myself and into some interim passenger.

For we cannot tarry here,

We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,

We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Four Saturdays is a new slant on our current project in the making. Our trip to ski the Haute Route neatly bookended by Colorado epics in Aspen Highlands and Silverton. We should have known. The previous La Grave encounter was preceded neatly by a big dump in the Highlands Bowl. And so it is, deja vu all over again- last Friday night over Prosecco as talks turned to the following day, the storm puking outside, a build-up of blower taking March out like a lamb, Chevalier’s mantra echoes; “All we need is a foot.” 27 March 2010, Mean and I report to Highlands with a lonely aching in our wintery hearts, and as first chair deposits us in a Temerity that is modest if reporting a foot, the first shoe has fallen. The hike to Highland’s Bowl is minus one red flag, but in a season shy of powder, gifts us with the winter’s best run.

O you youths, Western youths,

So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,

Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost,

Pioneers! O pioneers!

We are all leaving our significant others behind, and the excitement must be internalized. This is healthy. The wit-sharpening timidity is serving as yin to the giddy’s yang. Red Ryan, Chevalier, Ziploc and myself leave for Zurich somewhere north of midnight. It had to be Zurich, we have repeated. We have to arrive in Chamonix by train. Our heroes always arrive by train- with or without mohawks. Funk is somewhat of a daredevil, and our Prime Deity for the coming nonsense. 3 April 2010 we ski the Vallee Blanche. Second Saturday, as well as major life’s-to-do-list, checked. No Funk-Flops. No girls. No communication. Just us versus the Alps, the great storied peaks of wonder that inhabit the childhood sketch-books of one million school kids’ daydreams. Why is it that every alpine pursuit is always met with early doubt? Am I the only one with this bizarre ubiquity? From the smallest lump of rock to the highest ascents of my own life, the wall of confidence’s void must always be overcome.

All the past we leave behind,

We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,

Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,

Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Following the Vallee Blanche we embark Eastward, away from our past, and into the lore of youthful visions. Clambin Crew in Verbier- check. Haute Route-check. Leading to Third Saturday, and the descent into Zermatt. Big fat check. Is it any wonder I cannot sleep tonight? My head’s dialogue lacking its written translation, a jumbled anxiety. To bed with the words of Walt instead, my last night at home for some time; should all go according to plan, Fourth Saturday will be icing on the cake. Words to follow, processed through the dirges of a spirit lost in the Alps, at least through my mind’s eye.

All the pulses of the world,

Falling in they beat for us, with the Western movement beat,

Holding single or together, steady moving to the front, all for us,

Pioneers! O Pioneers!


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