Yesterday I witnessed my first avalanche, while sport climbing at the Golf Wall, in Durango. I used the experience for my assignment for the creative writing course I'm taking at Fort Lewis College with the wise, Will Gray, a former editor at National Geographic.
The avalanche happened on the right side of this cliff (the one in the background).
Springtime in the Rockies; there were concerns that it would be too hot, but that spring day was absolutely perfect for climbing. We drove my spray painted, red, white and blue car up the winding highway towards the mountains, stopping after fifteen minutes to arrive at our destination, The Golf Wall.
We hiked through a slightly muddy trail, the sky was a silky, translucent silver; protecting us from overheating. We arrived at the wall, the first climbers. The wall, an overhanging chunk of limestone, blue, pink, and grey, not much of a site to see, but a playground to monkey around on for a climber, that can fill a day with a fulfilling workout.
We always warmup; it awakens the muscles as we navigate a familiar climb. The hands feel carefully on the slippery rock, the feet delicately placed in the same way a ballet dancer does; this is our dance. A golf course below is shedding its white of snow for green of spring.
Other climbers arrive; they blast techno music and make fun of each other. They are mutual friends, we are a tribe.
Then, a crack, and then a series of rumbles, like a mining boom and crackle, releasing.
“Is it rock fall?” someone asks.
“It’s an avalanche,” Jonathan says.
Across the canyon, it is an avalanche. It looks like a waterfall. Snow powers down the cliff, cascading with the power I’ve only witnessed in a raging river. Mother Nature flexes her muscles, and then we go back to climbing.
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