As the dawn sky yellowed from the dim grey pre-dawn, the party made ready to depart for the summit. It appeared the weather predictions were right on the money, so it was either go now or not this year. The sparse camp was swiftly struck, a hasty breakfast of trail bars and lukewarm water was swiftly consumed, and soon they were facing up the final climb.
This was one of the easier paths up, but was known as the Birdcage. Most guide books assumed that was because the final ascent was made deep in a rocky crevice. That was actually true in its own way, but not because the crevice resembled any part of a cage.
No, it was because of the ornate birdcage wedged deep in the crevice about half way up. No one knew for sure how it got there, and there was a substantial amount of superstition surrounding it. Asking anyone about it who didn’t already know it was there was bad luck. And there were plenty of bodies on and off the mountain to prove that the promised bad luck was real. Or at least real enough to play into the superstition-friendly minds of climbers.
It probably didn’t help that there was a mummified body of a bird in the cage. From its size and beak, it likely had been a raven.
Which raised the stakes substantially. After all, there are plenty of superstitions surrounding ravens, even before you tap into the Native American legends about their totemic Raven trickster. Climbers most certainly do not want the attention of Raven.
So you won’t know about the cage and the mummy it holds.
How did that cage arrive at this immensely inhospitable point, and become wedged half way up a moderately dangerous chimney ascent?
It would be a safe bet to assume that the climber that brought it that far was motivated by selfishness. After all, the bird would have required a fair amount of support. It certainly would need food and warmth, so that would imply resources spent to feed it and keep it warm, in a place where every gram carried in is accounted for. A pound of food at the summit stands on a pyramid of effort to carry it there, and likely starts as more than 150 pounds at sea level. Bringing that bird was a selfish act of cruelty.
Worse, in the end the unknown climber lost a war with the unyielding stone of the mountain, and the trapped bird lost a war with the unforgiving elements.
Even if the raven had escaped its cage, however, it isn’t clear that it would have been able to fly to safety. We are well above the highest elevation at which any Corvid has been seen to fly, after all.
So this cage represents a triumph of will over common sense, and of nature over stupidity.
It remains as a shrine to both, and is lovingly maintained by the tiny group of people who know it is there.
If it is there at all.
After all, this might just be a tall tale.