Sunday, September 27, 2009

Because It's There

George Mallory (1886 – 1924) was an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. On the third expedition, in June 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine both disappeared somewhere high on the North-East ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world's highest mountain. The pair's last known sighting was only a few hundred metres from the summit. Mallory's ultimate fate was unknown for 75 years, until his body was finally discovered in 1999. Whether or not they reached the summit before they died remains a subject of speculation and continuing research.

Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question "why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" with the retort: "because it's there", which has been called "the most famous three words in mountaineering".

On our trip to the San Juan Islands last weekend I had the chance to climb Mt. Constitution again on my bike and for some reason I actually wanted to. I really had no other reason than “because it’s there” and I was there. Mt. Constitution isn’t the tallest mountain I’ve ever ridden up but it is by far the steepest beast I’ve ever conquered. From bottom to top it’s 1,800 feet of elevation gain in just over 4 miles and most of that gain is in the first half of the climb.

Jenny wasn’t really interested in the climbfest so she dropped me off at the bottom of the hill then drove to the top and patiently waited for me.

As I battled the first half of the climb a lot of thoughts went through my mind as I struggled with the sometimes 18 percent grade. Here were some of my thoughts:
  • Why did I want to do this again?
  • I really miss the triple on my other bike
  • I wonder if anyone’s head has ever exploded from hill climbing
  • Why on earth do I have an 11-26 cassette
  • If I laid down by the side of the road do you think Jenny would come back down and find me?
  • This speedometer can’t be right
  • Finally, Why did I want to do this again?
As I pulled into the parking lot at the summit and struggled to catch my breath I was finally glad that I had made the climb. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I had been on Orcas Island with my bike and not climbed Mt. Constitution. It’s just one of those epic rides you have to do “because it’s there”

Trying to catch my breath at the summit
The views at the top of Mt. Constitution are amazing. You can see all of the San Juan islands including some in Canada.

Jenny's reward for waiting for me at the top was that she got to descend the mountain while I drove our car down. Here's a blur of her flying down the mountain.
If you ever get the chance to visit the San Juan Islands bring your bike and climb Mt. Constitution "because it's there". You won't regret it.


Jenny-Jenny said...

Although I didn't earn the ride, it was a total blast flying down the mountain. The views from the top are indescribably breathtaking. Loved it!

jeff said...

Sounds like a good deal for Jenny! I totally know what you're saying. I've been on so many climbs that had me questioning my reasoning, but it feels great to have done it!