Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Call of the Cascades

Here's a story about the dangers of climbing Mt. Ranier. Kim and I didn't make it very far past the first big snowfield when we hiked it in September, 1994. But even from our pumice-covered perch above it, fortifying ourself for the trip back, we felt distinctly uneasy. The explosive percussion of falling ice in the distance didn't help matters. Of course, September is one of the most dangerous times to climb the mountain, since the mountain is at its most thawed.

Anytime I read about cascade volcanos, I think about my good friend Joel's harrowing piece centered on the Mt. Hood disaster of May, 1986, which only his imperfections as a math student spared him from suffering. The piece is reprised in the first chapter of his book Jerusalem Calling too, one I can self-interestedly recommend with great enthusiasm, since I edited it.

Back when we did the Seattle reading for the first Bad Subjects book in January, 1998 -- within days of the prenatal origins of Skylar, come to think of it -- Joel and I spent the night with guitar player/composer Ross Thompson's brother Giles and his family. Giles lost both his legs below the knee in the disaster. But he lived. Hearing his recollection of the disaster while replaying Joel's piece in my mind was one of the most intense experiences of my life and one which made Jon Krakauer's book Into Thin Air, which Kim read to me on a camping trip, way more immediate than it otherwise would have been.


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