The rock dared me to trust it. “I’ll be a good handhold,” it seemed to whisper. “I promise!” Though it probably weighed as much as me, the rock seemed to have a tenuous connection to its neighbors on the side of the cliff. I studied the obstruction skeptically, then tried to work my way around it.
Once I had lifted myself up to eye-level with the questionable boulder, my curiosity got the better of me. I nudged it with a finger. The rock came loose immediately, and I had to jump aside before it crushed my legs or knocked me off the side of the mountain. My hands had been unprepared for the maneuver, and they scrambled for purchase on the steep slope. Mercifully, my grip stabilized, and I continued my shaky ascent as a plume of dust billowed up from the trail of the fallen boulder.
I gained the ridgeline, and as the summit came into view I noticed for the first time that the south slope of Mt. Chief Joseph possessed vibrant streaks of red and orange. The mountain that had appeared from the north to be dark and humorless as a drill sergeant turned out to have a sunburned backside. I had hoped from the summit to gain an unsurpassed view of the Wallowa Range, but even though I was only two hundred feet beneath the highest peaks in the area, one mountain to the south was hogging all the scenery, blocking views with its broad stance.