Damp roads bent left right upward, morse code traction in intervals between leaves slick painted on the asphalt. An ascent is somewhere between a denial and craving for it, then. For a time your clothes seem too much, every few minutes wondering whether maybe take the gloves off because you feel your hands getting sweaty, every one of those minutes occupied by some other priority, not losing the wheel, shifting on the saddle, shifting the chain or just trying in case there’s one more.
Into the grey like we’re craving mystery, though it’s obscure in retrospect what might have been surprising. Not the roiling embracing smothering clouds, not the steam from our shoulders or breath, not the motivation not to linger knowing that we’ll shiver drop with an icy cannon blast to our chests.
Firm steady ground your trembling leg holds you up now to find a breath, everything from about your shoulders up is shifting sideways like the whole world is halved and is getting displaced by the growling blow. Can’t tell if the dizzy swirl is the leaves or just your consciousness.
Down into frozen fingers and leak of tears, don’t want to sit down because the saddle sends more shivering and the front is shimmer trembling sympathetically. You think of all the fancy cold denying gear in your closet that you could have been wearing, but even that regret dissolves and there’s instead more immediate denials: that the cold is too much, that you’d better stop to bring back some feeling, that the mountain made no pretense.
“Is that visitor center at the bottom open?”
“Don’t. Know.” You yell because the freeze made you think you were blanketed to silence.
We’re each trying out a different strategy, running fingers under warm water, the hot air hand dryer, just sitting with arms and legs and eyelids gathered tight. In the warped parallel reality of effort and misery and the other things that we sought, in that world’s impossible topology the descent turns out to have required a bigger climb than reaching the top did. In a few hours when we’re beers and cheer, we’ll forget and it will seem that we only live in normal reality.