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The early-March morning was calm, quiet, and cold—a perfect day to test our nerve on a winter summit. We drove carefully up the winding road to the base of Burnt Mountain. As we checked our gear and put on our hiking packs, the snow started to fly. With the impending storm, we debated if we would climb past the rocky, icy scree right before the alpine, but the rime ice at 3,000 feet convinced us to continue upward. It was Laura’s first elevation hike in six weeks—a recovery hike to test her strength after eight hours of surgery to repair major organs in her abdomen. It was her first climb with her pack, and everything she needed to survive was on her back.

When we reached the first ledge, our normal view of Sugarloaf towering over Carrabassett Valley was blanketed in snow and fog, a taste of Winter Storm Quinn’s arrival. When we reached the summit, the snow lingered, drifting slowly and softly from the winter sky. We never once saw Sugarloaf’s summit, but we knew it was there, entertaining those brave enough to climb its alpine ridge. We relished the silence high above the clouds, and our souls soared as we tackled Burnt’s icy summit, surgery wounds and all.

Laura and Adam Casey moved to Maine 
in 2015 after retiring from the U.S. Navy. The couple loves hiking and exploring the state’s western mountains. Follow them on Instagram @mainelycasey.

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