The mountain goat was chewing on my hair, nudging its bearded lips further into my sleeping bag. I woke with a start, waving away imaginary goat breath. Several feet away, on the other side of our rock-pile wind barrier, three horned chamois nibbled on wildflowers, surely more appetizing than my unwashed locks. The full moon lit up the curved basin of the Lac Blanc refuge area like an amphitheater: chamois, scattered stones, and Mont Blanc all wore the same monochrome mantel of lunar spotlight.

I gaped at the number of stars overhead. The extravagance was almost embarrassing, like a rich woman slapping on all her diamond jewelry at once. I searched the sky for familiar shapes, even though I needed to sleep. In just a few hours, our small group of first-time mountaineers was set to scramble another 3,900 feet to the summit of Les Crochus.

I wanted to live in that silvery silence a little longer. This is what people sweated up dusty trails in 80 degree heat for, wasn’t it? To be just a layer of polyester away from chill breezes; to live with the forced simplicity of a 30-liter backpack; to leave comfort behind and see what remains.

Isn’t that why I had?

Photo: Jean-Marie Heidinger