Peak(s):  Longs Peak  -  14,259 feet
Date Posted:  03/26/2021
Date Climbed:   09/10/2013
Author:  James Scott
 Rage Against the Dying of the Light   

“Do not go gentle into that goodnight.

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas

Mighty, Mighty Mary!

I have been waiting to write this trip report for 12 years.

My mother is a remarkable woman. She once flew to Nepal by herself to visit Kala Patthar and see Mt Everest firsthand. She went by herself to circumnavigate Mount Blanc. Being raised in the 1950’s, she didn’t seem to buy into so many of those expectations placed on women.

So when she came to me at age 66 and asked if I would take her up Longs Peak one more time, I didn’t question her. We talked about a training program and set a date. On Sept 9 I picked her up to sleep at the trailhead, and on Sept 10, 2009, we went up Longs.

We started earlier than I normally do, about 1:30 AM, and we made decent time to the boulder field. Hiking uphill? Not a problem. She slowed down on the boulder field, and it was roughly an hour to the keyhole, an hour across the ridges, and an hour up the trough. It was slow, but Mary has always had a fierce confidence that she can do pretty much anything. I didn't doubt her. She just kept on keeping on. For me, bragging to everyone who passed us that this was my mother who was turning 67 the next day may have been obnoxious to other climbers, but it felt pretty good to brag.

Alpine glow on the boulder field

At the Agnes Vaille shelter- another incredible woman

Top of the Keyhole, feeling strong

The crux of the climbing was the top of the trough. Mary took the chock stone to the left, and another climber helped me bracket her as she made her way. Her balance waivered and she nearly fell forward when we both reached out to grab her. She would have only fallen maybe 20 feet, but it would have been bad. I'm still grateful to that other climber! So I made her stop and talk this through. Is this really something we need to do, or just want to do? I tried to give her a chance to turn back and call it a day, but she wouldn’t hear of it. We pressed on to the narrows.

Mary on the trough

Turning the corner to the narrows

On top of the world

When you turn the corner to the homestretch, it can be demoralizing to see how much further you have to go. When we arrived, there were two high school boys, both looking pretty athletic, refusing to go any further. They were furious with their parents for dragging them up there, and they were just done. I never know if I should say something encouraging when I see that, or leave it alone. I will confess, it was pretty fun to watch my mother, age 66, pass them and continue on her way. She didn't say anything about them, and I suppose she didn't have to. It was another hour up the homestretch, and I was starting to worry about time, but once you get to the homestretch, there’s really no point in turning back if the weather is good. We were being passed pretty frequently, but the top continued to look closer and closer.

Negotiating the homestretch



Final steps to the summit!

At about 11:30, my mother and I reached the summit. A few of the climbers who had passed us gave her a cheer for making the top, and she didn’t seem all that tired. Mostly she was elated and told me how wonderful it was to return, once again, to one of her favorite places in the world. It was a moment…. yeah, I don’t really have a finish to that sentence. I would like to have stayed up there for hours, and we did take quite a break to enjoy the views and talk. As I recall, she tried to tell me how proud she was of me, which I thought was just ridiculous, given what she had just done. Eventually, we accepted the reality that we would have to start the journey back to the car.

Mary on the summit

So proud of my mother!

Getting down was an ordeal. Mary is great at going up, but especially at that age, her knees did not enjoy going down. It took four more hours to get to the bottom of the boulder field, where she promptly fell and smacked her knee. From there we hobbled for a while, but she regained her strength and her elation. About timberline, she started reciting the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” She went through the entire poem, and asked if I knew if. Of course, I said. You’ve read it to me. A few minutes before she spoke again. “Today was my day for that,” she said. “Today was my day to rage against the dying of the light.”

My mom has been battling Alzheimer’s for a long time. Her husband died five years ago, and we've been trying to keep her in her house for as long as possible. She has fought like a warrior- being an avid reader, doing sudokus and crosswords, even watching movies with English accents! Things stayed semi-normal longer than we thought they would, but in the last six months, the walls have closed in around her. Tomorrow we are going to take my mother and move her into a retirement home. I expect it’s going to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. So, I guess it’s a pretty good thing that I was raised by a bad ass woman who showed me exactly what being strong looks like.

A day before her 67th birthday, making it up Longs

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Amazing story!
03/26/2021 13:50
Wow, your mom sounds like quite an incredible woman, so sorry you have to go through this but I'm sure you'll make it through. Keep pushing onward!

mother and son.
03/26/2021 14:06
this is a beautiful tribute.

03/26/2021 14:12
...describes both your story and your Mom. Especially your Mom. And she raised a good son... Can't ask for much more than that.

03/26/2021 14:44
tribute to you Mom. I am glad that you were able to have these great memories with her.

03/26/2021 14:59
That‘s incredible, great story!

03/26/2021 16:51
Your report brought me to tears! What an AMAZING woman your mother is and you are an equally amazing son to her. I can only hope my son turns into the man that you did and would do the same for me.

03/26/2021 18:58
Thank you much for posting an inspiring report, one that most of us can relate to. I have family dealing with similar issues, and it makes you appreciate every minute with them. Past & present

What a Mom
03/26/2021 20:32
Don't give up. There are studies that show nutrition plays an important role in preventing and even reversing Alzheimers. Check out the book "The Plant Paradox" by Doctor Steven Gundry.

Thank you for writing this
03/26/2021 21:01
You are both lucky to have each other, all the best for the journey ahead.

One of the Best
03/27/2021 16:24
... both this TR and your mom and you. Thanks for sharing this.

Hiker Mike
03/27/2021 17:51
Wow! What an amazing story!

03/27/2021 21:16
Thank you for sharing. So meaningful and inspiring!

03/28/2021 00:40
Thank you for posting such a delightful story.

High and deep
03/29/2021 17:01
Thank you for posting this inspirational story. Best wishes and prayers for you and your mother.

03/31/2021 18:26
Crying before I made it anywhere near the end of this post. What an incredible woman! I'm only starting my 14er journey at 31 and I hope I'll be doing the same at your mother's age. Best wishes

Love Conquers All
04/07/2021 04:03
No doubt she is "a bad ass woman who showed you exactly what being strong looks like." But it's also clear she instilled a magnificent sense of perspective, empathy and compassion in you as well.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

04/08/2021 21:52
I absolutely love stories like this. Its amazing what she did at that age and her perspective on the climb. Mad props to her for doing so at that age and you for being there with her. Best TR I have read in a long time. Hang in there through these tough times and remember the bad ass person she turned you into as well.

04/09/2021 21:40
Just awesome!

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