These mountains that
You are carrying,
You were only
Supposed to climb
~Najwa Zebain

 

There are all sorts of mountains out there.  The ones that beckon us, challenge us; some of them defeat us others just block the view.  When I first moved from Northwester Ohio, (which is flat as a pancake; stand on a paper cup and see soybean fields for miles…) I went to Colorado and it was like magic.  The landscape was varied and rugged and called out to be explored and experienced.

I ‘bagged’ my first 14er (a fourteener is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) climbing Longs Peak in September 1989 the trail climbs 4,855 feet along steep ledges and through a narrows (which is like a skinny knife edge of a trail—one foot wide) to the top of 14,259 foot Longs Peak, the highest point in the park. The trek takes most hikers about 15 hours to complete.  We camped out the night before in Rocky Mountain National Park under the shadow of it.  Me and my then boyfriend, his brother and two nephews, and his brother-in-law who’d made the journey from North Carolina and trained specifically to adjust to the altitude and do the climb.  It’s the best time of year to mountaineer those halcyon days in September when the weather holds all day in the Front Range.  They have a saying in Colorado “…if you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes.” This is especially true the higher you get; you’ll be hiking along and bam!  Snow, Gusting Winds, Sleet, Rain …Lightening!!

The weather was perfect!  We started under the glowing morning moon, over boulder fields and up and up and up and up.  The further up we went the narrower the trail and lots of loose rock.  There came a moment when the kids started to whine.  They were tired and starting to slip and trip and fall.  The brother of boyfriend said “Ok, I’ve seen enough how much better is the view gonna get?  If I loose one of these kids over the side I might as well throw myself off as well.” My boyfriend agreed and so they decided to turn back. But the Bro-in-law and I looked at each other and agreed to push on.  It was even steeper and narrower and absolutely glorious!  Getting to the top was just a cherry on top!  Long’s Peak is the highest peak in the park and for a girl from flat Ohio it felt like I was on top of the world.  Literally.

The glow of the accomplishment proved to be a throne in the boyfriend’s side.  Turns out it wasn’t permissible to do anything better them him.  Within the year we’d parted ways.  One thing I learned as I got more and more experienced mountaineering and climbing: cut loose the dead weight.  Travel light.  If you have ANY doubts about should I do this will I make it then definitely GET OFF THE MOUNTAIN, Rock, Trail.  Your head set must be one of practical and committed.

LESSON 1 STAY PRESENT

As challenging and strenuous as it is; it is the most relaxing because your mind is so focused. There is no room for worry or doubt.  Only on the task at hand.  Where to put your foot, reach for the next hand hold.  Where to pitch your tent. Boiling fresh water. Eating for fuel. Drinking for hydration. Rest. Recover. Push on.  I love it.  Simple basic structure that concerns itself with only the present. Allowing for the unknown to exist as a matter of luck, chance, opportunity and reward.

LESSON 2 GET PERSPECTIVE

There is an Irish story about moving a mountain.  A couple living in their cottage love everything about it, except it is in the shadow of a mountain.  It blocks the view.  They seek advice from the priest (as you do in Ireland) and he tells them how to move it.  “Close your eyes,” he says, “and dance!”  So, they do and when they open them the mountain is far away and they are in front of a new cottage needing only their handy work to make it just as perfect as the one before.

LESSON 3 ONE STEP AT A TIME

When running or cycling and coming up to a big hill ever notice as you push up it, it flattens out?  Same with climbing Long’s Peak.  Don’t look down.  Look to the next step and the next and enjoy the view!

Then there is the mountain we stand on….but that’s another story for another time