Fire on the Mountain

To a Small Post-Office in North Conway, NH
c/o The Doomed
All arrangements have been made. GT has wired over $5,000 to cover the cost of the drugs and a satellite phone / equipment. Our attorneys assure us that all is in place for your demise. The magazine will not be held responsible for any of this. We wish you the best of luck on your assignment.
Acting Editor-in-Chief

November 23, 2014
From: Josh Chambers

7 A.M. on a Saturday. Who in the hell gets up at 7 A.M. on a Saturday? Oh yeah, me. I have to climb a goddamn mountain today. How do I get myself into these situations?

“How do I get myself into these situations?” seems like a benign and humorous thing to say, right? Little did I know, I’d be asking myself this question many more times today. Each one with a bit more severity but a decreasing amount of care due to the drugs and alcohol.

I’m going to protect the names of the innocent but most who read this won’t know who the gentlemen in my travels are and so it really doesn’t matter I suppose. But for their sake, we’ll adapt.

I arranged to meet at a park-and-ride nearby with my friend Fred and his friend Jerrod, whom I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Fred’s other friend, Eric was coming with two of his friends in tow, Steve and Don. Somehow we managed to throw a ragtag group of men together varying in age from 30 to 50 who only knew each other through another guy in the group. We decided to narrow it down to 3 vehicles making the 2 hour trek up north to save gas and make it easier to smoke en route.

It was a fairly normal drive, I rode with Fred and we ripped a couple bowls and had some good laughs. Before I knew it we were in Ossipee and coming up over the hill that gives you a good view over Tamworth and Albany to the Presidential Range; the centerpiece being Mount Washington, shining like a diamond sticking out of the earth and piercing 6,000 feet into the cold New Hampshire sky. I begin to get that feeling in my stomach. The one you get when you know you fucked up and there’s no turning back. We weren’t climbing a mountain as big as those, this one being only 3,750 feet, but it’s November and there’s snow and ice on that rock. I don’t have much winter hiking experience on the ice. I didn’t even yet know that I had not prepared for this.

We get to the trailhead and park and get suited up. Make last inspections and adjustments to our gear. Time to step off. It only took my out-of-shape lungs about a half a mile before I realized this was really going to suck. My legs were starting to quietly agree. How could I have let myself get this bad? It’s only been 3 years since I was doing shit like this on a regular basis in the Corps. This is bullshit. I begin to feel the tentacles slither around my cerebellum. Time to fight.

I get another mile down and I’m feeling a bit more confident but still sucking wind, nonetheless. My confidence is coming from the conversation going on inside my head at this point.
Don’t be a fucking coward. This ain’t shit. You got this.

Nah man, why do you need to go any further? What do you got to prove?

Shut up. Keep going. One foot, two foot, red foot, blue foot. Don’t stop. Left right left.

Dude, just take a break at least. Smoke a butt. You deserve it.

But I take confidence in knowing that I’m not letting the negative force win this time. I’m killing that vampire right fucking now. Onward and upward.

Another mile in. Now I’m hurting physically. We are about 2,800 feet up now and it’s been steep and wet. Now the water is transitioning into ice. I don’t have crampons or any sort of spikes to deal with the ice. This makes my climb even harder and I am already exhausted. I have to shimmy from tree to tree along the side of the trail and get traction in the snow. There isn’t much space in which to perform this maneuver and I have a 50 lb backpack on, to boot.

I keep trudging along in pain though because I know the cabin is close and when I arrive I can drop my pack and take a break.

But it got steeper and icier.

None of the guys wanted to wait for me anymore. I only have a half mile to go to get to the cabin but it may as well be 1,000 miles. And now I’m stuck in the woods alone with my thoughts. We are supposed to reach the cabin in time to change into dry clothes, eat a quick bite, and hit the last half mile to the summit for sunset. Fuck it. I don’t know if I’ll make sunset but I’ll make it to the cabin if it takes me all night. The dragon slayer part of my brain is arising and beating back those tentacles. Keep moving.

We finally arrive at the cabin. I walk in, drop my pack, and sit on my dead ass. Everyone is moving with purpose to get changed and back out. They’re almost ready and I haven’t even begun to get my heart-rate down from 5000 bpm.Jesus Christ. I’m definitely not making it to the summit for sunset. I let Fred know there’s just no way I’ll catch my breath and get changed in time at this point. We were supposed to head straight down the other side of the mountain into the treeline after sunset to start a fire and party until midnight. I would have no way of knowing how to find them if I didn’t join them. Fred knows the mountain like the back of his hand though so he offered to come back for me after they were done. I thanked him and watched them head out.

Once getting my fat ass back to baseline heart rate I quickly got into dry clothes and ate. I cracked a beer while waiting for Fred to come back. I deserved this goddamned beer.

A few minutes later Fred comes back and hands me a spare set of crampons. Thank god. We start heading up the steep rock face to the summit. We are quickly above the tree line and the wind is now whipping fiercely. Fred made it sound like it was a quick jaunt over to where the party spot was. No, this was not the case. It took us almost an hour of climbing and then traversing down through a pass to another smaller peak and then down into the woods. Finally, I am reunited with the rest of the crew. Except Jerrod, he passed us on our way down saying he was spent and was going back to the cabin. I think he knew what kind of indulgences we were about to consume in the woods and backed out timidly.

Eric was working on putting together the fire. Steve and Don were gathering wood. Soon the fire was raging and so were we. The beers came out first. Then the weed. Then the mushrooms. Then the souls.

We were listening to Frank Zappa, laughing around the fire, and passing small bottles of alcohol that Eric had scrounged up from god knows where that had a date of 1968 on them. I’ve never had such old booze but it was either cheap shitty crap or motherfuckers lie when they speak of the pleasures of aged liquor. This shit tasted like it was aged inside of an old Aqua Velva bottle for 100 years in your grandfather’s attic.

The mushrooms became more prevalent. Doug was now staring at a big chunk of ice that he had picked up and was blown away by it. I’ve been there before but I wasn’t there tonight unfortunately. I think Steve was in the same place. He was off by himself on a log playing with his camera but hardly speaking a word. This went on for a while with some trips deeper into the trees for more firewood and nearly getting lost as the trees seemed to pull you further in and away from the group. Fred had brought a gallon of chicken chili that we cooked in a canteen cup over the flame and passed around. Slowly coming out of the trip and easing up on the beers as we approach midnight.

By about 11:30 we put out the fire, cleaned up our mess and packed up. It’s Fred’s birthday at midnight and he is hell bent on shooting a big ass firework off the summit in celebration. We ascend quickly to the top of the mountain, now that we are well rested and half in the bag.

We now had a beautiful view of North Conway and the wind and weather was surprisingly calm, perfect for the rocket about to be launched. While I was waiting for Fred to set everything up for the show I leaned back on a rock and closed my eyes. I realized then that the mushrooms hadn’t worn off as much as I had thought. It was more fun inside my eyelids than out and I forgot where I was and what was going on. That is until someone screamed “Fire in the hole!!!” I opened my eyes and looked right to see Fred running towards me with a huge fucking grin on his face. The firework launches a couple hundred feet above the summit and explodes with a thunderous boom that echoes all down the mountain and off of the next one. It looked like a big neon green frame of an umbrella. Fred yelled in my ear, “Short fuse!”. I just laughed and shook my head.

One detail I failed to mention earlier on is that we had Fred’s dog with us and Eric’s dog as well. Fred’s dog is scared of fireworks. It didn’t dawn on us until we were getting ready to head over the summit back to the cabin. “Brady!!!” Fred was calling out. But Brady wasn’t coming. We needed to find this dog and get back to the cabin before the bad weather moved in. The mountains have a weather system all their own. How do I get myself into these situations?