We gave him a new backpack for Christmas -- one of those ridiculously huge ones that he could probably live in if worse came to worst -- and yesterday we shopped for long underwear and glove liners and so on. He'll have to rent ice axes and crampons (those wicked-looking metal teeth you strap onto the bottoms of your boots) and lots of other gear.
He's going with three friends and a teacher/friend/climbing guru he has joined on a handful of rock-climbing trips. This guru has climbed Mt. Everest several times and will in fact be heading over that way in a couple of months to guide somebody up and (hopefully) back down again. So I don't know whether to be comforted or scared witless by the knowledge that my baby is going to follow this nut up an ice-covered, wind-beaten mountain in January.
I blinked pretty hard when I took a look at this website and read:
Mount Washington's weather has been called "the world's worst", since the fiercest winter conditions on the mountain rival those of the polar regions and the highest mountains on earth. Among the challenging, sometimes fatal meteorological conditions on the mountain in winter...
They went on to talk about avalanches and the fact that people get killed on that mountain. And then there was this:
The highest surface wind ever clocked on earth, 231 miles per hour, was observed on Mount Washington in April 1934. Such extraordinary winds are unusual, but very strong winds are quite common in winter on the mountain. Mid-winter sees daily average winds of between 45 and 50 miles per hour. Typically, two days out of three will yield hurricane force gusts (73 miles per hour or greater). It is a rare winter month which does not see winds over 100 miles per hour...
I'm tempted to keep my baby here, warm and safe, but the reality is that in three months he'll turn 18 and be old enough to risk his life in a place like Iraq, just like so many other women's sons are doing right now.
That's a sobering thought. May God protect all of our children.