When Ben speaks his words are carefully chosen, each bringing its own weight and meaning, forming as a whole an idea and intent that is powerful and focused, saying exactly what needs to be said without a superfluous syllable.
When Albert speaks his words are not carefully chosen, falling over each other in a slightly jumbled cascade, interspersed with infectious laughter and sly sidelong glances, carrying with them a zealous vulnerability, coming together as an exemplification of raw emotion.
Ben, Albert, and I spent a weekend together attempting a winter ascent of Mt. Lassen. We were out for a total of 48 hours, but it is hard to evaluate the experiential content of such a trip in metrics that are quantifiable.
It is hard to use mere weight to describe the feeling of carrying camping gear, avalanche equipment, way too many clothes, and a very large camera up thousands of feet and through miles of deep powder.
It is hard to use just speed to describe the feeling of carving swooping turns through a pristine snowy landscape, spread before us like a canvas begging for an artist’s brush.
It is hard to use the temperature to describe the feeling of standing under a full moon, camped in the shadow of Mt. Lassen, freezing for hours as our small backpacking stove battled to turn snow into water for our summit attempt the next morning.
It is hard to use a clock to describe the feeling of unzipping our tent door just as the sun peeked its head over the mountain’s flank, heralding a new day, bathing miles of untouched whiteness in a rush of golden light.
It is hard to use wind chill to describe the feeling of boot-climbing our way up the final ridge of Lassen, assaulted by a screaming tempest of mountain air and ice crystals scouring exposed skin like coarse sandpaper.
But most of all, it is hard to describe the feeling of watching Albert and Ben, after slogging for a day and a half, take their final steps to the summit.
This is why we came. We came for this release of emotion. We came for this fulfillment and contentedness. We came for this moment when the past and the future are not meaningless, but inconsequential.
We came so we could be, in both the eloquent words of Ben and candid words of Albert, “so stoked”.