A long time ago, too many to count, I lost my first husband to the other woman. It was sad and I was miserable but I got over it.
I moved on far quicker than I imagined I could. How and why?
Well… for one, it was the third time. In my mind, I’d reasoned that a man that strays is not a man worth crying over. If you take him back (and I did twice before) then he’ll continue to stray. What incentive is there for him to remain faithful if you keep taking him back? Is it worth the heartache? Not at all. Besides, I had two daughters, what kind of message would that be sending them?
So, I moved on and was eventually okay with it.
Then I married a younger man and he had women pal friends. Oh boy! They were friends before I came along, so why worry about them. I found it incredible that there was not more to their relationships. When he and I started dating, he talked of them often, it was always “Jenny” this or “Pam” that. So, of course, I thought perhaps there’s more there than I realize? Hmmmm.
Jenny was the pretty one and his “favorite” climbing buddy. She was always available to go on trips with him and he loved having someone to climb with. On occasion it puzzled him that her husband had no problem with her gallivanting off alone with a single guy. In the early stages of our relationship when we were just friends, I ignored any speculation. Easy peasy. Not my problem.
One summer, I took a climbing trip with my rock-climbing buddies and he went trekking with Jenny and I thought perhaps Pam, another one of his regular climbing partners, but he reminded me how the two women didn’t get along so it wasn’t likely they’d pair up with him. Could it have been jealousy? No telling. It was kind of funny actually.
In the meantime, my guys, ( I was with three) helped me set up my tent on a mound not far from theirs so they could keep an eye out for me while giving me some privacy. I loved it. I know little about my BF’s trip, but it didn’t matter. We were after all only dating then.
Off track for a moment here. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with climbing in general, let me inform you that not all climbing is technical, meaning requiring ropes and harness. In fact climbing routes have numerical classifications depending on their difficulty, so when I refer to “rock” climbing, then I’m letting you know it is more difficult or as some say “technical” which requires rope and harness pretty much all the time, except for the brave soul, and there are some who free climb regardless of it’s difficulty, but that’s not me. The hardest climb I ever did was a 5.10a (US) which I thought pretty tough, but for a more experienced climber, probably not. When I refer to climbing fourteener’s, I mean peaks of over 14,000 feet in altitude, these may or may not require ropes at all, although it is possible. In fact, there are peaks of less than 14,000 feet, such as the Trinities in Colorado where you’d like to at least have the option of using ropes if necessary, which some in our group did. Later I questioned my own sanity for not having been one of them. Most guidebooks will tell you if there is a probability of needing them depending on your own caliber of expertise. There are some heights and areas that although not necessarily difficult are so exposed that they can make you feel a bit woozy, so it then becomes more of a precaution than a necessity. BTW, For me exposed means straight down or with very little to break your fall, should you fall. In cases like that you could get “sewing machine leg” which means your legs tremble uncontrollably from the tension and trepidation of taking the next step. That can be especially true on lateral climbs but not so much on the vertical ones. It somehow feels different.
Back on track. As our relationship progressed, my BF and I began going on trips together with his friends. Mine were not backpacking climbers, so it was just me that migrated to the mountain climbing group.
I was a greenhorn when it came to this distance climbing. While rock climbing required leg and arm strength with enough stamina to hike into the climbing area, climbing 14ner’s required more long distance stamina and in rare occasions, decent technical knowledge. Usually in rock climbing, the places I went to required minimal trekking in and most areas, you could practically just drive up to get to them, like the City of Rocks in Idaho.
Climbing 14ner’s was tough in a different way. I was always out of breath from the altitude… until someone cued me in on a trick. But before I learned it, these new group of “friends” frequently left me in the dust while they practically ran up the mountain, found a spot to take a break and wait for me to catch up. As soon as I’d get there, they’d put on their packs, wait a couple of minutes for me to take a swallow of water and maybe, if I was lucky, I’d get a bite of a granola bar before they’d be ready to head out again. I learned quickly not to bother sitting down because as soon as I sat down they’d be up, which was just as well because my legs would start congealing and it would be all I could do to get moving again if I sat too long. Fortunately, I did get stronger. But that was at first and boy did Jenny enjoy being the queen bee in those early days.
Even my BF (hubby) didn’t wait for me. I remember half the time wondering why he was my BF. It pissed me off because he’d be of with “her” or “them” and I was struggling behind. I’d have to remind myself how I grew up at sea level and I was considerably older learning all new stuff to do. (I’m nearly 50 in those pictures above) It was all new to me so I was determined and at the end of the day I was glad of it. I really loved getting to the top of peaks and seeing God’s creations in all their magnificent glory. Not to mention testing my own strengths and tenacity. Getting left behind while Jenny, him and the rest of the gang were way ahead was quite motivating as well.
On one of the earlier camp outs, Jenny and I were off by ourselves and she tells me how she just can’t understand how he could fall for someone like me. (Bitch!) Without malice, I ask what she meant by that. Her response, was… “you’re old-er”.. . Yes, that can’t be denied I am years older but she didn’t know how much older so her stating it cued me in on how she felt about him and how I was the interloper.
I tell my BF and being a guy, a rock could land on his head and he’d never notice, but he laughed and said, “No way, we’re just friends. We both just like to climb.”
Then he adds, “besides, she’s married.”
No matter, I kept my eye on her because although Pam was a possibility, as a single woman, she never made any claims or try to mark her territory.
So, I used the principle of keeping your enemies closer and asked Jenny to go climbing on a trip my BF had done several times before and that she had failed on two other occasions, so it was good chance for me to have a partner and her to try again. Gladstone sits between and near Mt. Wilson and Wilson Peak. It pretty much required an early morning start, so like at about 3 am I’m up and a little later, pick her up. Soon we are headed out from home and arriving as early as possible and starting the actual climb at daybreak.
We did Wilson Peak first then proceeded to head up Gladstone. Unfortunately, it started snowing about then. At first lightly and then suddenly humongous flakes begin coming down quickly. It was an early autumn snow which was surprisingly wet, so note the foreground in the picture and the rocky ridge? Well compound that with wet snow that because of the cold will freeze. We get through about a third of the way and each step becomes progressively more tenuous. I suggest we turn back. She says no, “she’s failed twice before and just can’t turn away again.” We went on a bit further until the snowfall escalated. In just a few minutes the places we’d passed earlier were completely white. It was my first attempt and though I felt for her, I wanted to see another day and wouldn’t continue. Plus each step we took became slipperier as we progressed. Getting there was possible, but the return? When we turned around to come back, we both looked up to see what looked like giant alien stick figures materializing on the east face of the saddle where the snow had collected, across from Mt. Wilson. It was like a sign from God.
As it turns out, we barely made it to this old mining shack we’d passed going up the mountain and took refuge there. It was still far from our vehicle, but until it abated some, it was a safe haven. We worried it wouldn’t stop and we’d be stranded there overnight and I made calculations of what we had in our packs that could get us through the night. In light of that we made the decision to go for it. As it was, it was dark when we got off the mountain (remember, we started out initially at 3 am) Sadly, it would be midnight before we drug our sorry bodies home.
I didn’t climb with her again. Without sounding sexist, I observed that the climbers with more sense were generally guys and I trusted my hubby’s judgement best of all. Some time later Jenny, would get a divorce and surprisingly, she did drop hints here and there which confirmed what I’d said. Was he disappointed? I asked. Had she been free, would he have given her a second thought? He was honest and said he didn’t know. The truth is, it was actually Pam he’d been more attracted to, but only because she was always up for a trip, other than that, he didn’t find her that attractive and she was so dang radical that he’d pretty much nixed her out as well. As for my queries about Jenny’s climbing passion being more akin to his? He said “No”, she wasn’t that great. Yes, sure she liked to go out but he questioned her motivation because, in retrospect there were times when she went on climbs with him that she failed the ascents, bailing halfway up. Her reasons were complaints of nausea and headaches, which to be honest, if you don’t adequately hydrate at those altitudes, it can be a problem. As for abandoning climbs? Well, I too, abandoned climbs before and in both instances I was with a singular other woman and both times it snowed heavily. I’d also heard stories my BF told me of times he should have and didn’t and how it could have been fatal. Then there were the news stories of people getting caught in blizzards and ending up dead or lost for days. It happens.
As for Jenny, I felt sorry for her because even though she remarried, it didn’t work out well for her that time either. From then on out, she climbed less and less but then so did we. Age has a way of catching up to us, but for as much older as I was than they, I outlasted them all.
Oh, as for the trick I learned to survive the altitude and breathe easier?