By: Tonilyn (Bear) Erickson •

The first time I caught a glimpse of her peak crowning the sky, she left me with a sensitivity to the cloud piercing crests. I was a young girl, catching a waft of her air that felt like an empathetic wail. There I felt something brewing inside of me, not to conquer her, but to be a part of her. She was shy, often blanketed by a sea of clouds. But she was also strong, generating a constant transition that could cut our competence in two.

In the years since our first meeting, we’ve taken a few fleeting looks at one another. In this time that has passed, I still find that her voice will rattle my bones. Some know her as Mt McKinley, and some of us refer to her as Denali. Whichever you may address her, she is 20,320 (or 20,237 on recent measurement) feet of arresting beauty. Plates eradicated her skeleton that continues to dress new patterns, and within every line across her quilted body you’ll find a new story.

At 23, I’m moving to a new chapter with this powdered block. As training for my saunter to her summit has begun, it can often feel daunting and it’s emphasized that I’m going where others have gone before and we’ll continue to go after – so why climb? But I remind myself of the intimacy between a person and a mountain. There’s a relationship, worth the battles of climbing, that my heart knows more than my feet – and that’s always to go on.