The Bagger’s Odyssey
“Because They’re There!”
(A Manuscript Discovered in a Pick-Up*)
The Fourteeners are under fire today:
Ormes puts them down in his own special way;
To others fifty-four are too few—
Why not try one hundred, maybe two?
The wisest heads will simply make the claim
It’s all a childish mountain-counting game.
But hell, my friends, once you’ve fill the bags
Who want to see the rules torn into rags?
So now, before the climate gets much worse
I feel the urge to trace my climbs in verse,
To take that jaunt to many climbers known,
A Bagger’s Odyssey, based on my own.
When first you think of challenging the heights
You might start with small Mosquito bites,
And charge from Kite Lake on up Democrat,
Look off at Climax and know where you’re at,
Go down the ridge (in altitude some loss),
Then up to Lincoln with a stroll to Bross;
Back to the Fairplay Bar, for a brief stop,
Then to Mount Sherman, peak without a top
And nearby Quandary, a strange shape you’ve eyed;
One huge split peanut, lying on its side.
It won’t be long before you gaze with awe
At those great piles down on the Arkansas;
At Shavano, where sight of sheep’s a joy,
At Tabeguache, its trap the false McCoy.
Up Antero’s jeep road you can tramp;
Then Princeton, up front, past the Young Life camp.
For Yale, skip Denny Creek — take Denny Gulch.
You can tell Mount Harvard — you can’t tell it much;
It’s barely pleased to settle for third best.
Columbia looks up, quite unimpressed.
When hiking in from Vicksburg you can do
Oxford, Belford and Missouri too.
Try Huron on the route from Cloyses Lake
(but notice that the east ridge has a break
which Lampert, Borneman and Ormes forget.)
Still farther north another row is set:
Elbert’s long but easy, Massive too;
LaPlata Peak, a horseshoe ridge to view,
Affords a striking climb that’s not too tough,
Like Holy Cross, it’s sporting but not rough.
Some pleasant tours for sunny autumn days:
The Front Range Cluster — Evans, Torreys, Grays,
And Bierstadt with the famous willow maze.
Pikes Peak sells doughnuts, two for sixty-five
(A single price for those who walk or drive).
On Longs the tourists march (yet don’t fall off)
As clad in sneakers they run up the Trough.
On long weekends the peak-collecting thrives:
Some people pick them up in threes and fives:
There’s Redcloud, Sunshine, Handies — mounds of rock
And Uncompahgre — weird and tilted block,
With Wetterhorn, where suddenly you pop
Up that last pitch, to find you’re on the top.
San Luis Peak adds one more to the five —
If you can find it on the cattle drive.
And farthest south, Culebra’s rather nice,
That is, if you have paid the entrance price.
Drive through the turnstile and on up the road.
The Sangres’ routes are free but have more holes:
The Como road with all that wear and tear
Will take you in to Blanca, Little Bear
And Ellingwood. Get out to move a rock
But leave the jeep when you get vapor lock.
The Lindsey road is worse but not as high;
Just pray the Huerfano is running dry.
The Crestones are for Independence Day,
When climbers come to camp from far away;
And Dallas, Tucson, Albuquerque meet
Each starting up the Needle group by group,
Traversing the Peak ’til back they loop.
Some climbers tired, others almost dead:
“The gully or the couloir — which was red?”
Another day, Kit Carson’s to be done,
Up past the Golf Course, summits one by one;
And Humboldt for a night or morning walk,
With so few rocks there’s time to breathe and talk.
But best and worse, the mountains of romance:
The Deadly Bells that give no second chance:
A picture post-card from the parking-lot;
loose rocks, soft snow and every kind of rot,
And just across the creek with the same wiles,
Stands Pyramid, with all its gothic piles.
The climbing’s less a problem than the fear:
The Bells are not the mountains for light beer.
In Castle Peak the bowl is one great drift
Where skiers keep an all-year cable lift.
Snowmass at times has snow and sometimes not
But on the eight-mile trail it’s always hot.
To Capitol you hike the drainage ditches
Before you cross the knife-edge on your breeches.
Don’t overlook one treat the Elk Range brings:
A tired, torrid soak at Glenwood Springs.
On labor Day you’ll take the Narrow Gauge,
Endure the cinders and conductor’s rage;
Quick grab your pack! when Needleton’s the stop
Pose for one shot on Sunlight’s narrow top;
Around to Windom, Eolus makes three
(his bag of winds Ulysses’ men set free).
Hike down the trail, wait thirsty by the track;
The latest train will take you to Big Mac
Before you drive all night to make it back.
To Sneffels, from Ouray as you have heard,
Negotiate that shelf-road past Camp Bird,
Which leaves to last the farthest peaks that hide
Across the state, down west to Telluride:
Whether from Silver Pick you cross the pass,
At Rock of Ages Hilton dine in class,
Or take the trail down by Kilpacker Creek,
The shortest scramble goes up Wilson Peak.
Mount Wilson’s shifting boulders take more time
To get you to the ridge’s crosswise climb.
At last, the Bagger’s moment of the truth:
The crowning denture of the state—The Tooth.
You’ve climbed them all, you’ve finished up your stint
Of moleskin, Mountain House, and Kendall Mint,
Of ensolite that lets through rocky points,
Of frozen fingers and of aching joints,
Of dressing in the dark at ten to five
And wondering at times if you’re alive,
Of thunderstorms, of graupel and of hail,
Of monstrous rolling rocks that turn you pale.
But then, perhaps, how can it be in vain
To finish with smoked oysters and champagne?
Can you really swear you’re glad it’s done
And next time out say, “Now it will be fun!”?
*(Neale Reinitz writes: “I found this poem three years ago, inscribed in pencil on a large sheet of plain brown paper in which were wrapped a well-soiled roll of moleskin, a small jar of Beluga caviar and five pieces of Kendall Mint. The package had slipped behind the bench-seat of a truck I had just bought at a used-car lot. The unknown author refers to himself as the Bagger.” — N. R.
(Used by permission from Neale Reinitz)