To My Dearest Cascades,
Thank you for some of the best four months of my life. After exploring the remotest corners of New Zealand, meeting Burmese orphans in Thailand, and skiing chest deep powder in the Wasatch mountains, I really never thought I would say something like that to you. I guess my standards have gotten pretty high.
by Gaelen Engler
This piece was originally published in The Climbing Zine, Volume 7: dirtbags, hyenas, and free solos.
Thank you for the sore muscles, for the aching knees, and for the long miles that led to blissful nights of sleep. Thank you for the solid rock that allowed me to push my limits, and for the chossfests that kept me on my toes and truly assess what life is worth. Thank you for the endless sunshine, and for the dark clouds that never led to anything more than sweaty palms and a pounding chest. How it stayed dry for so many days, despite ominous skies and an anxious girl, I will never know.
Thank you for the endless boulders of sparkling granite, and for providing so many Gaelen-sized bivies in all the right places. Thank you for your starry skies, so brilliant that my partner and I would be woken in the middle of the night. Staring into the heart of the Milky Way, before the blazing sun rose over the horizon on yet another perfect day, was often better than the sleep it would rob me of.
Thank you for your impossibly complex glaciers, for providing me a glimpse into another lifetime. Thank you for instilling in me an even greater appreciation of the fragility of our natural world, and for helping me recognize the impacts that the warming of our Earth is having each and every day. Thank you for allowing me to witness these pieces of history as they tear away at their roots, cascading down your polished slabs, never to be witnessed again. Thank you for never allowing one of them to cascade down into me, despite countless opportunities.
Thank you for your knife-edge ridges, for your perfect cracks, for bloodied and bruised hands after hundreds of feet of perfect jamming. Thank you for being never-ending, for always giving me something to come back for, as long as I live. You and I are not done, and never will be.
Thank you, finally, for allowing me to be truly myself in your presence, for taking care of me when I left the rope in the truck, and for making me feel more alive than ever before. I will miss you with my whole being, and am already longing for another season of splitter weather, ranger dodging, and a heavy pack, making your already impressive summits just a little more work to attain.
Gaelen Engler currently calls Whitefish, Montana home in the winter, which now seems to look a whole lot more like spring. The rest of the year she resides in her Tacoma in the Cascades, guiding rock and mountaineering in between alpine sufferfests and general granite adoration. She is always looking for new ladies to adventure with, climb with, ski with, and cook delicious meals with, so hit her up if you are ever in the Cascadez! Holla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle.