Mt Terror in Silhouette

North Cascades, Washington

Large, colorful blocks formed the stacked and tilted crest. From the edge, enormous walls plunged through two thousand feet of air to alpine glaciers on both sides of the mountain. Below the ice, polished bedrock funneled hundreds of sparkling streamlets into cascading torrents, each hurtling wildly over glacial headwalls and into the wide bottoms of the lush, green canyons nearly a mile below me; standing there felt like flying. Southward an overlapping mass of mountains huddled in an epic thrust of rock and ice, and north across the cirque the bulky rampart of Mt. Fury rose like a fortress over deep valley footings. The terrain was fantastically rugged.

A couple of hours before sunset, while enjoying the great views, I traced with my eyes a continuation of the descending arc of the sun and found myself looking directly across at Mt Terror. I traced it again, and then again, stunned at the possibility. From my mountain-top perch, the margin of error looked so small; it seemed just too impossibly precise an event to come true. But slowly the sun drew nearer and my excitement grew. Near the horizon the sun began to distort, spreading into deeper hues of yellow and orange. Then finally, as I watched in near disbelief, the sun, still fully above the distant horizon, passed perfectly behind the summit spire. A needle of light vanished and for a moment Mt Terror alone held the sun in total eclipse. Only seconds later it reappeared on the other side in a burst of intensity. Light flickered at my feet and looking down at the rocks below me I could clearly trace the shadowy outline of Mt Terror moving across from right to left. I jumped to my left hopping from rock to rock back into the shadow and again, total eclipse. I moved further, trying to steady my camera as best I could. The huge, distant outlines of Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan seemed to mirror each other's shapes, perfectly framing the gloriously backlit spire. Very soon I reached the edge of the mountain and could go no further. The sun reappeared, then slid silently below the horizon.