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A Window of Clarity

Fitz Cahall
Heart of Winter 2007

On clear mornings, we awake to alpenglow and Mount Tallac. Its long shoulders stretch down to the South Shore’s beaches. From the summit, a long, narrow gash of snow divides black rock bands. Cliffs close in until the large bowl pinches down to a 30-foot-wide corridor walled with 100-foot-tall granite teeth. To locals it’s known simply as the Cross. For us, it’s a brilliant slash of simplicity in an otherwise cluttered existence.

Climbing skins hang over the refrigerator like hides drying. I keep tripping over a wayward ski pole that seems to wander as it pleases over the tiny apartment’s 300 square feet. Becca threatens to start wearing her avalanche beacon in case she ever disappears inside the growing pile of long underwear, duct tape patched ski pants, inside-out mittens, goggles and helmets. Our work schedules mirror our cramped living quarters.

At night, I return home exhausted from another 12-hour day. Snow is gathering in the driveway. I open a beer and turn out the overhead light. I stand there in the dark, staring into the snow hitting the window. I know Tallac is out there gathering snow. I imagine the Cross is filling in. I pace across the floor, stub my toe on the bed, and turn to face the wall. In the apartment’s silence, I swear I can hear the walls inching in on me.

About the Author
In 2006, freelance writer Fitz Cahall and his wife, Becca, embarked on the Move Mountains Project. The couple will climb and ski every Cascade volcano above 9,000 feet in order to raise money for a Corvallis, Oregon youth shelter. For more information visit