Montana Roots

     "I fear neither death, nor pain."
               
"What do you fear, my lady?"
     "A cage, to stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. 

     And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire."

The last few days have found me methodically packing for Montana. While I have only climbed "ice" twice - both times on seracs at Mt Baker - its become apparent that my psyche has really taken a fancy to this sport. With OR is a sponsor for the event, the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival seemed the perfect opportunity to get on waterfall ice and learn what its really all about.

Into my bag have gone layers of clothing for battling the dry cold of Rockies, multiple pairs of gloves for testing, my beloved Scarpa Charmoz, harness/reverso, tools, and my swimsuit for the hot tub, of course. Tonight, I'll throw in my thermos, coffee and french press, making my kit complete. Tomorrow, I hit the road with my intrepid companions, forging ahead into a world I barely know.

Despite having very little experience, I feel an unusual calm about this trip. The words of Erowyn from LotR, above, have stuck with me since I watched the films in a marathon over Thanksgiving. Lately, and inexplicably, an incredibly steady confidence has been radiating from my core. Perhaps I'm finally outside the proverbial cage my fears have always tried to keep me in.

Or, perhaps my calm is from having a trusted, solid team to climb with. (Side note: my team consists of all men, one is a redhead, one a blond, and one a brunette. Ladies, could it get any better? Let the bad "so, I walked into this bar one night" jokes begin...) Without discounting that I am my own best "teammate", good partners are truly key. And these men, well, they're 3 of my favorite.

But, this unusual calm has me thinking....what is it with this trip? Maybe deep down I really love ice but just dont know it yet? Is it my own inner bird ready to fly free? My awesome friends? Or, maybe, maybe....

…Maybe I'm feeling a tug of my roots. After all, I am going back to the land of my ancestors. Livingstone was where my Great Great Grandfather homesteaded a ranch, the 63 (for the year, 1863 when he claimed the parcel). Of his 11 children, 2 were lost in infancy, 1 at the age of 12 when she was gored by a bull, several others lost in early life, one I believe when she caught fire on her stove while cooking and couldn’t wake her husband. My great grandfather’s first wife died 10 years into their marriage, his second wife 2 years after they wed, his third managed to stick around longer.

My grandfather grew up as a cowboy on the 63 and at the age of ~11 was riding, slab of steak kept inside his jacket during the winter's work to keep it from freezing, leaving home for stretches of time as a young boy. Not your typical way of growing up these days.

Ernest, my grandfather's cousin and a local mountaineer, is part of local legend disappearing on Granite Peak in 1959, the day of Montana's biggest earthquake. His story was quite a mystery then and remains so even after parts of him were discovered, first a shoe with a foot inside in 1999, then other bits and pieces a few years later.

Such hard, but adventurous lives, no where near as cozy or convenient as my gas-heated, 800fill down, SUV-driving life of 2010. Perhaps my calm comes from hearing the call of my family, feeling a pull towards the strength they poured into that land through their labors, feeling called to a "home" I last visited in 3rd grade.

This could also be hocus-pocus bullshit that I'm imagining because I'm a romantic-headed, creative-type with an over-active imagination. But even if that's the case, I'm enthralled by going where my grandfather and more distant relatives roamed. To be in the place that shaped my people so many years ago, where older generations influenced the next with drive, determination, and a need for exploration and adventure. I want to see and feel the beautiful surroundings that shaped who my grandfather was. That in turn, as it goes, shaped me. I think I might discover that I’m very much like him.