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For the week of Sept. 15, 1999 through Sept. 22, 1999

Baldy climb remembered

Express Staff Writer

s15cover250x382.jpg (27107 bytes)Pat Casey AKA Fred Mebley III finished 4th overall in 39:01 for the highest placing by a local in Saturdays's Baldy Hill Climb.

No animal except man inflicts ritual suffering on itself.

Consider Saturday morning’s popular torture ritual here in Ketchum: the 3,140-foot ascent of Bald Mountain raced by over 200 hikers and runners.

I seek out events like this because of my German guilt. For me, painful physical workouts can be penance for any number of things, usually for eating too much sausage or not calling my mother often enough.

When I arrived at the base of Warm Springs for the hill climb, my first, I was surprised to see more than a hundred people shivering in wait on the bridge. The old and young faces seemed to be eager, mixing fits of laughter with hungry glances at the mountain.

I am athletic, with one big, ego-boosting race on my running resume. I ran the New York City marathon three years ago, when I was 26, and finished with an acceptable time of about 3 hours.

With that credential and with a summer full of cycling and trail-running, I thought the 1.78-mile climb would be easy. I looked around at my cackling competitors and thought "See you at the top, suckers."

At the start, I broke into a run and elbowed my way to the front. That run and my lead lasted 20 seconds. Then I became a gasping, sputtering, slow-moving obstacle to faster climbers.

"Fun, eh?" said a friend, Whit Albright, in passing, in one of his least witty moments.

I forced a nod and downshifted to a slow, walking pace that would allow for breathing.

Once I eased into that crawl, I tried various coping strategies. I tried to let a pop song distract me from the pain, but it quickly faded under the rhythmic tapping of the ski poles the hiker ahead of me was using. I tried thinking about my girlfriend, but she faded too. I tried chasing Adrienne Leugers, who came screaming past me, hardly breathing. The chase lasted for another 20 seconds, when I had to stop for oxygen.

I don’t remember much after that. I do remember that by the time I made it to the top and to the boisterous finish line crowd gathered there, I was shuffling in a simian hunch, with ribbons of dried spittle wrapped around my face.

That’s when my arms went up involuntarily and when the euphoria of the crowd ran thick in Baldy’s alpine air.


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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.