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Iron Mountain #1

28 May 2001

By: Mars Bonfire


Ladies' Choice: A private Memorial Day adventure to Big Iron
With: Ping Pfeffer, Joanne Griego, Barbara Guerin, Winnette Butler, Dorothy Danziger, Edith Liu, Sherry Puraty, Chris Toomey, and Mars Bonfire

"Wanted: a small band of rugged, dedicated, minimalist women adventurers willing to endure many miles with much elevation gain, morning drizzle and afternoon heat, steep and loose rocky chutes, along with thorny brush and the possibility of rattlesnakes, all while carrying 5 quarts of water and all for a reward few would understand -- BIG IRON!"

Of the millions and millions of women in the greater Los Angeles area not many would respond to such an invitation. But Ping, Joanne, Barbara, Winnette, Dorothy, Edith, and Sherry did, along with expert hiker and backpacker Chris Toomey (and his presence greatly increased our overall sense of safety). You probably know and have hiked with many of them. Some are retired and grandmothers. Some are in the prime of their working years. Outwardly they appear like people you might encounter at the mall, the market, or the workplace. Yet if inner strength and determination are the measure they are destined for a pantheon of their own: hard core, full immersion Hundred Peaks women, veterans of such strenuous or intimidating peaks as the Big Four, Rabbit and Villager, Eagle Crag, Sheep and Martinez, Lily and Antsell Rocks, and Five Fingers.

Trivia question: How do you know when a hike is a success?
Answer: When Ping enthusiastically exclaims, "I'm so happy!"

On Memorial Day, May 28, 2001 the multitude did many things. Some sat and watched (books, newspapers, art, computer and TV screens, each other) and ate. Some moved about a little (walked to their cars and then cycled through parking lots to get the closest possible space to the entrance to the mall, the market, the gallery, the entertainment center) and then they watched and ate. Some exercised at special and expensive places, fitness centers, wearing special clothing, using special machines, and carefully monitored themselves so as to avoid going one rep, pulse beat, or bead of sweat beyond the minimum the medical profession has determined is necessary. (Necessary for what? To maintain health! So there you have it: exercise is no longer a natural, inevitable, and joyous component of our daily existence but a specialized paid for activity we grudgingly do to avoid medical problems!) And they watched, and then they ate. Is this a fair portrayal of America?

In the beginning an inexorable equation was established: for the simplest life forms to get from one place to another they had to expend their own energy to generate some form of motion. And that equation held true through the development of more complex animals and finally to ourselves and is so inextricably a part of the history of every cell in our bodies that our optimum well-being is impossible without the regular effort of mobility.

These eight ladies could have been with the multitude on Memorial Day but every cell in their bodies screamed "No! Take us to the mountains. Push us and let us show you what we can do. That half hour you thought was a workout is not even a warm-up. The three hours you set, as a personal goal, do not even bring us to cruising speed. What you thought was the limit is only the beginning!" And so to the mountains we went. Ladies' choice. And there we were graced with a chance to breathe deeply and place one foot in front of the other, to be totally in the moment and never make a false move.

Was it a success? At the end of the day as I drove down San Gabriel Cyn towards the 210 I thought I heard the final reverberations of Ping's triumphal summit announcement to the world: "I'M SO HAPPY!"

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