Even though I thought the crowd noise would cancel out “the idea”, as I later came to call it, (even though it was more of a proposal and less of an idea) I wasn’t worried. I wasn’t worried because it was the Pizza Port crew. For some of the regulars, the most activity they engaged in was a pickup game of volleyball and a night of lifting pint glasses. (But to be fair, there were some people that made up the crowd that ran marathons, competed in triathlons, and leaped tall buildings in their spare time).
So, when someone enthusiastically followed my off-the-cuff suggestion with a hearty, “Let’s do it!!!”, which was then echoed by several other voices, I nearly slopped beer all over myself in surprise. After everyone had finished laughing, I looked at the table of people who now “wanted” to climb Whitney. Everyone had a glass in their hands, and aside from Lumonox, no one seemed worried. I figured it would be rude to laugh at the proposal as people appeared to be taking it seriously – or as seriously as one could take ideas or proposals after several drinks. Diplomatically, I tried to explain the climb in detail – twenty two miles of hiking; large amounts of altitude gain and roving, hungry bears.
But, despite my description, only two people decided that they were no longer going to attempt the climb. The matter, however, was put off by Lumonox, who, having turned around on the trail before, knew what I was talking about. Despite “the idea” being tabled, I found myself put upon to start an “exploratory e-mail list” and look into obtaining a permit. Much later, when I arrived at home, I laughed at “the idea” as I got ready for bed. I told myself that it would never happen, and rolled over and went to sleep.
The next day, in good faith, during my lunch hour, I sent out the “exploratory e-mail”. Within the next few hours, I realized just how wrong my opinion had been as I had received around twenty or so replies of “very interested” people to my e-mail. Since it wasn’t the first time I had been way off, I took it in stride – a disbelieving stride – and moved on. That Thursday, I was there to answer questions about Whitney, and the next Thursday after that as well. For a short while, it was all people wanted to talk about. I took that in stride too. I figured it was just the latest Thursday fad, and sooner or later, my list of twenty would drop to a list of one (myself), and then I could call the whole thing off, as I had already done it before and had no reason to go do it alone again.
For a while, I felt that this second theory was sound. I kept reminding people that I would eventually have to get a permit for the trip, and they would have to pay fifteen dollars for their share of the permit. This financial disincentive shaved the list in half. I was then left with a list of a “solid” twelve people, along with some peripheral players who lived out of state and who supposedly were also really interested in attending. As summer faded, people from the dozen (or the “Dirty Dozen”, as I liked to call them) started to give me cash. I realized that I would have to make the reservation for the permit. Since the deliberations to go had taken a whopping eight or so odd-weeks, our window for climbing the mountain had moved from late summer to early fall.
Finding a permit was complicated by two factors: we had a large group, and we were going to do the climb over a two day period. Despite my continued warnings, I had been unable to lower the group below twelve. Based on my previous experiences, I knew that the group as a whole could not do the climb in a single day. I also didn’t want this climb to turn into some sort of prolonged multi-day multi-summit attempt debacle, so I wanted to keep our timeframe short and simple. As a result, I had strongly suggested that we do the climb over two days, a motion that had been ratified by the rest of the Dirty Dozen. With these parameters, the best permit I could get before winter fell was for the weekend of October 19-20, 2007.
Since I had the money in hand, and the trek had been delayed by the group’s indecision for a long time, I decided to place both feet and hands in the fire, and made the reservation. The next week, when I brandished the reservation at the table, half the group was thrilled, while the other half looked decidedly nervous. As I answered questions from the half that appeared to care, or at least had a passing interest in surviving the climb with all their appendages intact, I realized that whether I thought it was a bad idea or not, and whether I wanted to or not, I had unofficially been selected to lead the first mountaineering expedition that left from Pizza Port.