In the Lectionary

February 11, Transfiguration B (Mark 9:2-9)

Strange things are happening on this mountain.

I spent a night last July at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. Whitney is accessible without technical climbing and ropes. But it’s a grueling hike. I originally planned to sleep at the mountain’s base and make an early morning ascent. I ended up arriving at Whitney midafternoon. I opted to go ahead with the hike instead of waiting. The possibility of photographing both a sunset and a sunrise from the mountain’s apex was too alluring.

It was a glorious sunset. But my night atop Whitney was frigid. I slept in every bit of clothing I had with me, and I never felt entirely warmed. Even summer nights are cold at 14,500 feet.

Dozens of other backpackers joined me for the sunrise. They had awakened at 3 a.m. to hike through the darkness, up the same rugged ascent, to be at the top for dawn’s first light. The sunrise, like the sunset, was phenomenal. We oohed and aahed as the morning sky slowly brightened, painting various hues across the eastern horizon.