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Femaelstrom

Charlotte had a new boyfriend, and he sounded pretty nice. There was a problem, though: he was in Antarctica for six months. Thus when she produced a camera during our climbing trip to Maple Canyon, Utah, someone immediately said, “Flash him, Charlotte!”Charlotte handed the camera to Akaljeet.Our group was eight women and three men. The males, all young, were at the other end of the cliff.”Just keep it quiet, they’ll never know,” someone said. Charlotte whipped off her sport top, and with alacrity climbed a few feet up on the rock.Akaljeet backed up – and with a shriek fell off a boulder. Everyone at the whole cliff looked over, and Charlotte was eight feet up half-starkers and Akaljeet was lying on the ground.I’d had this weekend off unexpectedly. It was the sacred opening weekend for bowhunting season for my spouse; for our sons it was the finale, in Keystone, of a mountain-bike race series. However, parents of other kids on the boys’ bike team had emerged as apparently willing to take them.I had e-mailed asking Heather, one of my best climbing partners, to take a trip; we quickly reserved the group campsite at Maple, a place of cobblestoned gold walls; and we started asking friends. The trip was loosely organized as a women’s get-together, but guys were welcome.Charlotte replied in seconds: “I am so in!”I carpooled with Akaljeet, but even as we talked, played music, and laughed, a simmering worry grew in me, with every hour further west, that I shouldn’t be doing this.The problem had arisen a few weeks beforehand, at the boys’ bike race in Telluride, when I had hiked the course and scared myself gazing at its drops. (“That was your mistake, Alison,” Heather teases me. “Don’t hike the courses.”) At Maple I’d be out of phone range, as would Mike where he planned to hunt. One of the boys could be hurt; I felt we should be present or reachable. Returning from Telluride, I’d told Mike, not gladly, that I was ready to give up my trip.In the end, Mike decided to hunt in a different spot than intended, one from which he could hike to a spot to receive cell-phone messages. I proceeded with my trip, but was conflicted enough almost to wish the weekend safely over.Our trip numbers repeatedly ballooned and receded, and ultimately comprised Charlotte and her dog; Andrea and her dog; Heather and her boyfriend, Damon, and their two dogs; Margaret from Salt Lake and her dog; and Akaljeet, Rita, Cassia, Ian and C.J. We ranged from college age to 49, and in ability from people who climb 5.8 (moderate) to 5.12 (hard).We arrived to perfect weather. We climbed excellent pitch after pitch each day. And the group jelled with the kind of chemistry where everything is funny and afterwards, you laugh every time you think about it.Margaret, Charlotte and Andrea spoke words of adoration to their dogs all day, every day. I remember trying to hold my sandwich high, away from both a dog in front and one in back.Each morning Charlotte was up at 6:30 to go running. Toward 9, as most of us headed out, Ian, who is not far past being a teenager, would finally sit up in his sleeping bag, and slowly look around. We watched Andrea, once a chef, flip whole skillets of vegetables, and saw a dog grab a mouthful of eggs.At the fire one night we determined our “rock star names”: combine the name of your first pet, and the first street you lived on. I was Mittens King Clay, sounding to all like a porn star; Ian took the prize with Buffy Highway 133.And my kids were fine, and when Heather said we should all go again next year, I didn’t say yes but I didn’t say no.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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