Monkey Mountain

It turns out a mountain in Colorado looks like a monkey when seen from above. Or maybe a baboon.

I embarked upon a couple failed ascents of this mountain in 2005 and 2006. There are some photographs to show for this, and a journal from the first trip. In the summer of 2010 I gave a lecture at Mount Tremper Arts about my trips to the Rockies.

In August 2011 I made a first ascent of Monkey Mountain, traveling along the jawbone of the monkey from aproximately the left ear to where the nose meets the face.



November 2005 Whetstone Mtn. Journal


In Chicago, waiting for flight to Albuquerque. Been reading Orkneyinga. The first revelation of the book was spatial – the Orkney-Norway axis with its western Iceland & British Isles peripheries leading east to Sweden and Russia as natural spheres. Second was how Thomas Pynchon's bad-ass rules here. Troublemakers such as Svein Asleifarson murder & screw up everyone else's life, but seem no more hated than the storm which dashes a ship to match-sticks. Will of course be curious how this trip goes. Perhaps it is more of a scouting expedition – though it would be nice to make work. Anyhow, it is sunset here. Reminds me of low winter sunset eight or so months ago arriving in Milwaukee, orange sun suddenly revealed in the gap between the flat clouds and the flat land. Now flying low over western Chicago, each car is pushing an oval of light ahead of it through the twilight. Then the plane plunges up through the clouds. I remember the blue flame near Tim's house in Cascadia, Seattle.

11/12 AM

To ABQ last night, wandered looking for Ron's Camino Real, asking teenagers on street corners for directions, settled on his breakfast choice – Frontier. Called Jenni, who relayed less promising weather forecast and read a few poems over the phone. North of Taos a frisky calf is running. Stopped in C–. The B– of the Sangre de Cristas. At Mac's someone had just come in from hunting and wanted 10 mins. hot water. A client and the waitress were trying to figure out which of two parties to attend, a birthday – “I should go, I was born in the same year, I'll only stay a couple hours” or a Scorpio party. A man in chaps unties his horse at the hardware store. I buy a a stone and am told what chakra it helps. A good town. Earlier stopped at the dunes. Now heading up over North Cochetopa Pass towards Gunnison, a bit fuzzy from the altitude. Earlier remembering driving to north New Mexico 11 yrs. ago, my headlights wired to stay straight, dropping off my hitchhikers at a rainbow gathering north of Taos. My pen has exploded from the altitude, I think. Can one avoid that? Use felt tipped or buy local?

11/13 – PM

Arrived at Crested Butte yesterday evening. Observed Whetstone Mtn. from side of road. High, snowy. It has snowed the first real snow yesterday – a few inches – it was coming down as I arrived. Hostel is decent. Cooked dinner, there is a crew of ski bums here getting ready for the season. Played poker, went to Eldo bar. Got some companions for hiking Whetstone and information about Johnny R– to call for access. The latter info from Erica M– the bartender. Interesting crew, guys from Portland and Australia and one woman, Josey. My roommate here is from Florida. At bar on patio smoking cigarettes met a heavy machinery operator. He said he dug graves in the winter. He said he might dig my grave. I guess there would be worse people to dig my grave, but I sort of hope he doesn't have to. He seemed a bit upset by his job. He said he had buried a lot of the old guys already and would bury half the people at the bar. This morning up early. Drove to Whetstone & looked it over a bit. Called R–'s, talked to John's wife & then her brother-in-law. Ranchers, up early even on a Sunday. Got permission to park by their hay barn & hike up through their fields. Ended up with one companion from hostel – Ben from Portland, OR. Good incentive to keep going. We got to beard of monkey before Ben called things off, we got down just as snow started. We got hamburgers at the local gas station. Then so tired, rested all afternoon, half-rested all this eve. except for a walk in the still-falling snow. I hope I don't get snowed in... I would have loved to have gotten higher – I think we made it to about 11,200 ft., summit is 12,500. We were just below a ridge which is the line of the chin, in the shadow below. But I am pleased how circumstances came together – meeting hostel people, the bartender & getting good information & permissions. We will see what comes of this. If I wipe excess ink from my pen, I can keep writing with it.

11/14 – PM

“To know one's mind” is a good quality, they say. From Orkneyinga introduction. A fairly quiet day. 2 cups coffee at local coffee place, two walks in the snow north & south of town, read 2 local histories. In 1872 they would've thought nothing of climbing a 12,000 ft. ridge in the snow... Oh, well. Cooked a vegetable soup for dinner. Listening to Neko Case now... A foot of snow fell yesterday and today, and it is still snowing.


So perhaps mountains do elevate the soul. – note to self. It has been a tiring few days... Thinking about Gunnison's 39th parallel expedition bringing along landscape painter Kern – killed by Indians along with G and others. What is the forgotten war of the 39th parallel?


Thinking about how cheap energy made this trip possible. Flying to ABQ, having a fancy car & driving to a remote town supplied with fresh vegetables at the grocery, etc. In library was reading about how ranching was viable in the valley due to hay being valuable (necessary, and very difficult to carry in), then RR arrived and hay prices drop. The guys who'd switched from mining to ranching became poor. Surreal night last night w/initial lodging @ Aztec Motel abandoned for its squalor then to an airport motel. Not to mention chilly dinner at Marta's, rather than Ron's, Camino Real. After initial terror of mtn. passes, a nice drive south on rural roads, some stopping for image-making. Hard to tell issues re success/failure of trip. I enjoyed it & saw some new things. But I did not walk on a monkey's face/nose. Great to see C–. ----- Are we descended from Whetstone Mtn.?