The lovely southern town of Seville was remarkably different from the previous two cities. I was accustomed to the late nightlife of Spain by week two and decided it was completely safe for me to arrive past midnight in a new city. Not the wisest approach to traveling solo, but exciting nonetheless.
I was quickly reminded of city smells again after Madrid. It was so clean there, yet the vibrant life of Seville could change scent with each corner. The streets were all very narrowed and quickly reminded me of Venice when I was lost in that city maze a decade ago. It felt good to get lost here.
Luckily I don’t sleep much out here. This precious time allowed me to see so much in such a short period; the Alcazar Palace, the many secret plazas, the flamenco dancing, the fortress of foods lining outside every Calle. I was intoxicated by it all. This was by far my most favorite place this far, but there was just one problem.
By day three of walking around the city, the pounding above my eye got worse. What started out as a small headache a week ago, slowly turned into a ball tension capturing all the stress of my past year.
I cannot quite explain how I knew it was tied to my concussion, not to mention the failed attempts at self-love were taking a toll on my stress levels, but I just sensed it deep within my tattered fibers. I needed help.
Not knowing exactly what help I needed, I figured I would start by researching facial massages. Which ironically turned into a search back towards cranial therapy. The western doctors in Colorado confirmed my skull wasn’t cracked and I didn’t have a blood clot after the blunt force of a rock to my temple. While it was uplifting news at the time, I still felt the concern and frustration bubble as to why I was no longer myself. I even sought eastern medicine afterwards, a cranial therapist in Buena Vista told me my right side was indeed blocked and another would hopefully be able to assist over many sessions.
So here I am, walking into a cranial massage with very little expectations. The reviews felt more like a quick massage parlor and I was shocked to see they offered a facial and cranial massage for under 40€. The woman greeted me with a calming presence. The room is drowning in deep blue tones, with the typical orchestral music. At first it feels like a typical massage, but then her strong, precise fingers know exactly where to move across my temple. I am surprised to see how easily she can find my pain point without communication: I couldn’t speak Spanish well, and she couldn’t English. At one point she is pressing on the exact place of my accident and I feel this release. It was clear my entire neck was also holding this tension as she pushed all the negative energy out.
I’m staring up at the blue lights in the ceiling when my eyes roll back into the pain. As much as it hurt, I leaned into it and swear I saw this white patch of light in my brain just close up. It was as if all the emotional and physical baggage of these past seven months just got swept away into her magical, healing hands.
I walked away feeling so grateful for her help. The deep headache on my eye was gone and I felt a lightness in my step. I’m hoping this lasts through the night and that in the morning when I wake up, I’ll be on another road to recovery with this crazy accident. Life is certainly not being taken for granted.
When I began researching Africa, I knew I would be entering some dense jungle parts that required some vaccines.
Luckily I already had yellow fever from a previous long trip in South America, and since that is for life, I had one less needle to prick in me. However I still needed to update my typhoid, hepatitis A (maybe B & C), rabies and polio – yes, I guess polio made a come back. By the time I compared prices to a few US travel locations, I would be paying well past $500 for these. I find it absorb that we pay so much money into insurance and yet so much is considered optional.
That’s when I knew I would be getting all my medical needs in Europe, prior to entering the continent. like Africa, I always held Spain on a pedestal, and knew one day I would visit when my Spanish was a bit better. I had a couple friends living across the country so it seemed like the perfect time to take the trip.
I am so grateful for Alexander because without him, I wouldn’t have know where to make the appointment months ahead of time. Turn out free healthcare in a foreign country still beats traditional American standards.
The clinic was modern and full of people. While I had an appointment, I still found myself waiting for an hour. There could be worse things. also very grateful for my Spanish friend because there are so many medical terms I do not know in Spanish, and he is fluent in five languages. Surprisingly not a lot of people in Spain know English as their second language so it would have been extremely difficult for me to ask questions.
I brought my travel vaccine card from many years ago to help communicate what I had already from the past. Alex works in the medical field, so this was probably just a typical day for him. I however dislike hospitals very much. I’ve only had three doctors successfully draw blood from me, and I just get uncomfortable in the sanitized florescent lighting with them poking around on me.
When it came time to sit on the chair I approached with hesitation. I watched him wiping all the syringes and anticipated four shots in both my arms. I didn’t mind the first one, ironically the one he said would hurt the most, however the second, third and especially the fourth stung. I know this is completely normal to most people and I should just suck it up, but I hated every minute of it.
Alex seemed entertained by it all. At least one of us was. The doctor pricked me in both arms, but by the third shot I was very shocked that he started wiping my thigh with a prep pad. I was not expecting this, but before I could ask questions the next shot was delivered straight into my leg! I guess there is a first time for everything. The fourth may have been the worst and I squeaked with a little panic. I definitely caught a grin on Alexs’ face when it was finally over. The last surprise was when I went to pay, it was a shocking $48 for the entire visit!
We celebrated over wine and tapas, and more wine. As the night progressed my entire body felt stiff. My legs were especially sore as we got off the midnight train to his house just outside the city. Anyways that was my experience with Spanish healthcare and I would highly recommend getting your vaccines at a local clinic in Spain before you Travel south to Africa!
The first leg of the trip didn’t start so well. Catching a small cold a few days prior, my phone battery died upon entering the Denver Airport, and even lost flight reservation. Apparently they couldn’t locate my flight because the third party did not enter my birth date on the itinerary. While all the US counters and overseas airlines were closed after hours, luckily, I came early enough to sort over an hour long phone call.
Despite all the set backs so quickly, I know they are lessons for future check ins.
Had a long layover in NYC where I was able to take a much needed sleep at my friends apartment. She kindly gave me her keys while working as I surprised her with a matcha latte. I was so grateful for a quiet place to close my eyes. The white noise of construction outside pushed me into hours of sleep. Managed to squeeze in lunch with an old friend, but all I could stomach was ginger beer. I crawled back to her apartment couch where I slept for a couple more hours.
Realizing how rough the other half of this flight will probably be, I grabbed the subway back to JFK where I connected my next leg, Ponta Delgata. This little island located far off the coast of Portugal seemed like a beautiful place to call my final destination. While it was tempting, I went through customs, got my passport stamped and continued to my final flight into Spain.
The medicine was catching up to me and I felt delirious arriving into Barcelona. I was mildly surprised that I didn’t have to go through customs or get a stamp. I brushed off the idea that I illegally entered the country and was ready to dust off my Spanish. Navigating the train from the airport was challenging as it did not correlate to any of the previous maps I pulled up when I had Wi-Fi. Each time I asked for instructions, I would only recall the first part of what they said and would proceed to ask the next person. It was a constant game of breadcrumbs leading me to the next train, the next metro, the final bus.
I stumbled into my hostel around 2:30pm or whatever time it was in this foreign zone. Upon checking in I immediately went to my bed, took off my shoes, and without hesitation, proceeded to fall asleep for another many hours.
Awoke in the evening to unfamiliar voices out the window. The streets were alive and people were emerging from their dwellings. I decided it would be a good time to catch sunset at the Sagrada Familia Church. I’ve always been drawn to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His whimsical, oriental and gothic style challenges the world of engineering. I love the way he stays playful while introducing functional innovations in his building.
I returned to the Wi-Fi of the hostel to find ramen. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal in over 72 hours and I had just enough of an appetite for a warm soup. The first spot was closed so I circled back to the hostel entrance to use the Wi-Fi to find another location. The second spot was sold out of ramen. I must have circled the neighborhood three times until I finally found a small Chinese den that served homemade noodles.
Five euros later I was walking down the bustling street, with the hint of my first smile. The night was young and I cradled the warm bowl of Togo noodles as if it was the only thing that mattered in the world. As far as I was concerned, in this moment it was. I had yet to invest in anything in this new place and had zero expectations aside from devouring this hot soup and waking up tomorrow morning with a fresh hope for the future.
My heart pounds with anticipation as I glance at the clock, 4am, and it seems as if time itself is sprinting towards the moment of departure. A surge of indescribable emotions courses through my veins, rending any attempt at verbal expression futile. It is as if a tempest of feelings is tearing me apart, a whirlwind of excitement, apprehension, and exhilaration colliding within my very being.
It seems as if my life has been a series of rapidly falling dominoes since April. My grandmother passed (at the beautiful age of 96). I fell over my handlebars in a frazzled family state of affairs leading to a serious concussion. I created some healthy boundaries with my mother as I seek nothing but love. I quickly realized my jaw was still locked after weeks of trying to slowly move it open. I answered the door to a police officer who was delivering subpoena papers to my landlords upstairs. I spiraled into researching a better living solution. I requested three weeks off work not knowing where I would spend it. I contacted my dealer and impulsively put a lot of my savings into purchasing a practically new 2022 Van from across the state. I started packing my house in four days. I locked in a storage unit out west. I applied for a new PO Box.
I got out of Dodge. Aka the limbo I was stuck in for a year also known as Evergreen.
So this is my life in another universe. I wake up to the morning sun and walk around the woods with my cat. I spend the evenings riding my bike around the hills of Colorado looking for the next sign. I drift from mountain town to mountain town in question of my next permanent destination.
Every day is a new day, and I am so eager to live it all. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t die on impact that day months ago when my temple hit that rock going 25miles downhill with no helmet. Trust me, I always wear helmets and that is how frazzled I was that day.
I was driving out to Grand Junction one Friday morning on I-70 – daydreaming about how much fun I was going to have this weekend with my friends cross country skiing.
In the blink of an eye I was quickly rattled out of these thoughts. Suddenly I lost control of my tires on the black ice and started Fish tailing. Each swing of the car got bigger and bigger until I knew I lost control. Of my steering wheel, of my entire existence.
It all happened so fast, but I’ll never forget the moment before impact when a voice calmed me. They said “you’re going to die, try to relax” At that moment I hit a guard rail on direct impact which sent my flipping over the right side of this bridge. Vail is known for their ice and cliffs. For some unexplainable reason, I did not flip off the bridge. The airbags that I LITERALLY HAD REPLACED 12hours prior detonated. My windows shattered and my phone managed to steadily play “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere”
I am surely dead. Is this what the afterlife looks like? I quickly want to be the furthest distance away from this machine that almost took me. The abrupt blare of a truck horn jolts me back into the safety of my car, despite all the exposed, broken glass everywhere.
I feel a soft throbbing pain on my head and reach up to discover my hand is filled with a small pool of blood. Suddenly I am filled with panic. What just happened??? How am I alive and without something rammed into my body?
I see a young man running toward my from his pulled over truck. I lift the flap of my deflated driver door airbag to talk to him. Tears are suddenly flowing down his eyes as he is immediately relieved to see me alive. It was as if he saw the entire scene from a distance and together we witnessed something unremarkable.
They asked me to quickly describe what happened. I said I fish tailed and sort of blacked out the rest. I didn’t actually find out until later that I flipped. Then followed a series of questions, the last setting the tone for how I would handle this entire aftermath. “Who is the current president” and I respond “Biden, but it depends who you ask” he laughed and walked me to the ambulance.
Unable to open the other doors, which were lodged in, escorted me around the shoulder of the highway into the ambulance. It was once a peaceful, still morning. Yet now at the early hour of 7am over ten people were chaotically walking around. A large clean up crew to pick up all the debris that left my car in the crash. I wonder if a fragment of my soul is to be found on the cold concrete. I was in a daze, walking toward the warmth of the ambulance as people asked me questions and walked the scene. In the ambulance they were stunned. Expecting to tell me I had a concoction. Certainly waiting for me to release the paperwork that we were all going to the emergency room to stitch the blood coming out of my head.
They thought I needed one to two stitches, but that was probably because they wanted me to get checked out regardless. In my brief experience with ambulances I just know you don’t want to ride them. What country do we live in that encourages people to avoid basic needs such as health care, in order to avoid the financial impact?
Continuing the jokes I responded “guys, you’ve been great, thank you for the blanket, but offense, I do not want to ride with you”. They first attempted to tell me that I was stuck on a highway and that I needed to find a way off. Knowing they were not my only option out of this mess, I just said, I can walk, honestly I probably need to. That’s when they said that is not safe and spoke with the state trooper to take me. I signed my release form and got shuffled into another warm vehicle.
The state trooper was young, dark and handsome. I tried to get ahold of my nerves as I watched him fill out his paperwork. That very moment felt like an out of body experience. It was as if I were dead and I was going through the daily routines of these strangers. Kind humans that were just doing their job.
He asked if I had anyone to call who lived around Vail. I almost said no, but then one name came to mind. The name of someone who immediately upon realizing I was alive, was my one call. I’ll never understand why I didn’t call my brothers or sister. Perhaps I didn’t want to scare them and this man felt like someone who would actually be there in a flash. And I was starting to realize I really needed someone there. As independent as I am, this was not a day I could have done alone, without the help of so many people.
The state trooper quickly picks up on my rush of adrenaline and wise-cracking jokes. I was quickly realizing my car may be completely totaled, $12,000 vanished into thin air, yet I was SO DAMN GRATEFUL TO BE BREATHING. He even wrote me a ticket and I thanked him.
He attempted to draw out the scene. He was incredibly perplexed and quiet staring at the paper. He then says “you flipped.” I shoot a look of bewilderment “really?”
“Yeah, check out your roof. You can see the damage. What I don’t get, is how you flipped and managed to land like that. I’ve seen many, many accidents working in this field for over a decade. Yet I have never seen something like this. You are incredibly lucky to be alive”.
I sit still, attempting to process those words. Then immediately stumble on my words as I reply “I know. I don’t know why, but I know.”
We eventually leave the scene two hours later and I am dropped off at a nearby gas station (because he can not legally take me to a hospital). I am recognized upon entered the doors as “the girl who had the big accident this morning”. The mountain town cashiers and people were very kind. The owner of the gas station brought me tea and offered to clean the goosebump on my head with hydrogen peroxide.
I shook my head yes and started crying as an overwhelming amount of attention and love swarmed me. I could feel it. He patched me up and was one of many hero’s that day.
My one phone call man drove two hours from another town when I thought he was currently in this town that morning. He saved the day and showed me again what it looks like to turn lemons into lemonade.
I am forever thankful for the kind souls the universe has placed into my life. It appears I just became a little more spiritual afterwards: I couldn’t understand why I was given this second chance, but certainly felt more purposeful because of it. In this life, it is understood that we really only get one, and we must live it to the fullest.
Yet now that I’ve been given this incredible gift of a second chance, what would I do differently? For starters I would immediately get out to the desert.
If you are reading this, consider it some silly, small token that your current situation has landed upon. I am determined to find some privacy through this thing we like to call the internet. So if you found this post buried amongst all the other 58, well then I would say it’s meant to be.
It’s liberating going into repeats and actually finding more than a summit after each mountain. With each connection toward nature, not to mention the people along side this brutal insanity, I feel a step closer to something bigger than me. And with each hike now comes this familiar comfort that I am home and I don’t have to look any further.
Flash forward and it is Thanksgiving 2021. I just got off a plane to what feels like some other place in time. Either I am in some matrix that is simulated with yet another airport flight, or I am constantly out of place. Anyway, I AM GRATEFUL to be off that plane, and out of that airport full of sea-blob-staring, anxiety-ridden souls. Currently in the living room, distracted by Chip purring across my laptop begging for attention, something you can only appreciate from a furry friend.
I find it comforting that the mountains are the most reliable thing in my life.
Guess I still hate the holidays and this time of year. It comes around like clockwork and I always find myself packing and moving. Everything must go. HUGE BLOW OUT SALE. Wanted: new routine, new confidence, new love. I can’t help but feel bittersweet this time of year, not to mention so incredibly alone in this entire life-journey thing. Trying to find a more positive spin, but the truth remains that I am skeptical about a soulmate.
Back to Mount Sherman. If you even care to hear about this mountain. It is in fact my favorite little slice of 14ers that I introduce people to. It is close enough to the city that you won’t be exhausted driving and running on little sleep. It is the shortest of all the fourteeners, not to mention, considerably less vertical gain than the rest. Naturally, it is the mountain I chose for my friend Lisa, who is looking to get back out there!
Climbing Mount Sherman feels like climbing into the new year. Where am I even heading? Suppose I no longer care for the top – the views will be nice, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Yet I don’t think I particularly care for the bottom either – I know what awaits me when I return back to the city and am doubtful about how it serves me.
Nope, here right now, walking this snowcapped mountain in my mind, I choose to be optimistic curiosity and thankful for the people next to me, that are quietly going through their own little mental mountain. The howling wind is a great excuse to keep to ourselves as we trudge on. Even the success of summiting is short-lived in this cold, and we find ourselves enjoying the quicker hike down.
Anyway, what I’m really saying is that I know exactly where am I right now (if you only knew how much of a broken record it is), but equally feel lost. I would like to place this promise to myself into the metaverse. I want to, need to, promise to, spend a year actually taking care of myself for a change. I often take on too many humanitarian projects (often with the people closest to me) and wonder why I lose myself in helping them achieve greatness. I have given far too many years building up others who put my needs on the back-burner. Ultimately, I become frustrated and spontaneously rip the informal contract into tiny littles pieces. It may take some time, and hopefully the shortest of all seasonal changes, but I think I will reach this new height.
At least once a year, some unfortunate climber sends the local search & rescue office into full gear. It is actually crazy to see the data! Luckily, fate was kind to me as I embarked across climbing from Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle, otherwise known as one of the four Great Traverses in Colorado.
Backpacking into South Colony lakes was unreal. It felt like the world was closing in on me and I was safely protected within the bosom of this range. The Sangre de Cristos, and specifically Crestone mountains, have been very influential in my climbing experience. They have left me battered, afraid, hopeful, satisfied and all emotions in-between. The evening light rain showers welcomed me, refreshing me for the night ahead.
Awoke at 2am with more eager anticipation than usual, after-all, today I would climb my last first Colorado 14er. There was something bittersweet about knowing this will be the end of an era. However there was equally something comforting in the perspective of how far I’ve come throughout this journey.
Found company around 3am in the darkness of moonlight. The headlamps of two older men would shine yards away, and I knew we were both chasing the same thrill. We sling shot on the switch-backs, exchanging awkward hello again’s, and eventually resolved to just climb together as we were clearly able to keep up with each other.
Chris and Wade surprised me when they took out their ropes and harnesses going up the first summit, Crestone Peak. While I confidently hung behind, without a rope or care in the world, I found it useful to pick up some basic partner ropes skills while watching them climb the loose terrain. One does not simply climb these mountains.
The sun was breaking across the mountain range, and each peak greeted us with a soft, yellow smile. I was in awe of the rays of sun striking the side of the red gully. It was so inspiring that I needed to feel it. I spontaneously removed my approach shoes and climbed into the light. The rock was smooth and numbing, swallowing my stomach while I basked in the sun. I only recently starting removing my shoes at random points along the 14er hikes, simply to feel the earth, or rock, beneath me. Feels silly, but don’t knock it until you try it.
After the endless scramble of the red gully, we made the summit, just in time to watch the peaks light up. I typically don’t bring coffee past 13,000ft, however I really wanted all the cozy comforts to simultaneously stimulate my heart with emotion on this last climb. Made a cuppa and watched the sand dunes in the distance. From this vantage point, one could see all of the San Luis Valley, and if you squint just right, the mystical magic it held.
It was during our climb down and toward the traverse cairn that we began to see people. I typically prefer less people around for these more technical climbs, however I embraced everyone with the biggest grin. Practically hugging strangers on the mountain. Not really.
Anyway, we made our way across the rocky face of the traverse with one route in sight. The famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
I had no doubt in my mind that every mountain I climbed over the past two years has led me to this very moment. Fear subsided into ecstasy, and every bone in my body told me I was ready. A truly rare feeling for me to feel so certain about something, when life has always held so much doubt.
We made our way across the rocky face of the mountain with one route in sight. Then, finally, the famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
It began with a small class 5 move into this narrow bulge. Yes, I am aware as I am typing this how sexual mountain climbing can be. It is probably best that all the research led me to believe this 5.2 move would be the most difficult, and distract me from the later crux. I conquered it with ease, and felt like it would be smooth sailing after. There was an exposed, fun climb across a mini rib which allowed you to see the entire back west side of the mountain – it dropped down for over 4,000 terrifying feet.
Little did I know how steep the approaching 40 foot rock wall would be. The same rock wall that sits on the edge of this 4,000 drop ridge crest. This mountain crux is Crestone Needle’s way of slapping you one last time. You are merely 300 feet away from the summit, and if you can pass this one last, potentially fatal test, then you can enjoy the panoramic views. It is so fitting that there are 3 paths you can take up from this point. If it weren’t for the constant reminder of the breeze, I would have thought I was in a video game simulation.
I watched Wade go first, desperately wanting the ropes he has been utilizing this entire time. Chris followed, certainly intimidated, but with the safety net of knowing he was harnessed in. Matt and I looked at each other and he asked me which I would prefer, going third or last. I knew that he was a strong indoor climber, despite this being his first 14er climb of the season, however I wanted to know everybody was safely above me versus looking below in fear.
So I watched him accent upward, and quickly turn into a faint speck. I was at the final pitch, all alone with a racing heart. My hands reached above me, and chose the path less traveled. The far left route that would force me to see the entire backside of the mountain below. There are no words to describe this mental fuckery. I bit my lips with each hand hold, focusing on each rock. While my hands felt great, I kept having flashes to what would happen if/when my foot would slip beneath me. The hand holds weren’t large enough for my feet to find stability.
About half way up the climb I realized I was completely and utterly alone. Not even my helmet would protect me from the deadly fall should I mess up ONE move. The group was well into safety, as I tried my best not to look left, down or up for that matter. One rock at a time. Just one more rock.
My legs began to quiver and I had to stop to control my breathing. I was having flashbacks to the blizzard on the nearby mountain Kit Carson. I could see my death below me and had to ask myself how badly I wanted this life. Some of you can easily relate to this type 2 fun that shakes your bones and leaves you on another high afterwards.
My hands were beginning to lose circulation and I knew I had to climb on, for fear of my fingers losing grip. At one point I even attempted to call out to Matt. He obviously had no control, nor could really talk me out of this sticky situation. The only option I had was to climb up. So I did.
Eventually I reached the top of the ridge and held back tears – I imagine this is how someone cast away deep in the ocean would feel once reaching land after fearing for the end. Perhaps I’m being dramatic but this certainly was the bang I was looking to go out on.
I didn’t realize how great that final summit would feel. My final 58th mountain. Damn. I did all that. Too excited to eat my protein bar or drink water, I paraded around in a silly rainbow poncho – LIFE WAS GOOD.
Rah, rah, rah, I climbed down the other side of this mountain and made it safely to camp where I packed my things and lived happily ever after as a Colorado 14er Finisher.
Let me first start this off by saying I rarely like to plan out adventures. I enjoy scoping out the overall terrain, but I get this sense of surprise by not looking too much into these class 2 routes. I figure the mountain is there, and I will find the trail.
The morning started just at sunrise. I was still new to hiking on my own, and certainly did not want to encounter any animals at dawn, especially mountain lions. I couldn’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of morning traill runners encountering their scare of stares.
My personal goal was to hit Missouri mountain, summit, and cut across to the trail that connects to Oxford and ending on Belford. Most hikers would summit this in reverse order, but I purposefully wanted to knock out the most difficult climb first.
I slowly found myself above tree line. While I did not see anyone on the trail all morning, I could see the few spots of people on the ridge of Belford, climbing up.
The climb up Missouri was an endless switchback. If I wasn’t careful, I could easily miss the cairn along the talus rock, and find myself on an entirely new face of the mountain.
It took me a couple hours, but I was finally in the home stretch. I cross the south ridge feeling like I landed on mars. The sand was red clay, and lovely curves cut off to drastic edges.
I slowly found myself above tree line. While I did not see anyone on the trail all morning, I could see the few spots on the ridge of Belford, climbing up.
The climb up Missouri was an endless switchback. If I wasn’t careful, I could easily miss the cairn along the talus rock, and find myself on an entirely new face of the mountain.
It took me a couple hours, but I was finally in the home stretch. I cross the south ridge feeling like I landed on mars. The sand was red clay, and lovely curves cut off to drastic edges.
Found myself on the summit just a few moves later. I was alone, but I was accompanied by the views of the land. I cannot begin to describe the joy I felt a top my tower of solace.
Everything in life just aligned so perfectly in that moment. Until it didn’t.
The trail downloaded from my alltrails app indicated a clear cut across the north face couloir. I later found out this heat map was most likely based on mountain goats.
I slid down the scree with uncertainty. It was a fun speed and I didn’t have to climb back up, so I didn’t see the harm in this route down.
It did not take me long to look ahead and address the MASSIVE 1000+ feet of ICE SLAB that would soon become my life. In a fast approaching panic, I desperately reached around me. The rocks were so loose that I couldn’t find a single one sturdy enough to support my weight.
The sheet of ice was quickly below me and by some miracle, my single poorly-treaded hiking boot stopped me from falling below to my death. I caught my breath, looking at the plunge below me with dread. I knew the foot hold would not last long, and quickly found a jagged, knife-like rock to carve out a hand hold above me.
My life depending on this weak, little foot hold as I found a second rock and utilized it as an ax. Primitive, but effective, I was able to use these two rocks to ax diagonally toward the safety of some slab 400ft away.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I was finally on stable ground, but when I looked above to the distant, VERY distant trail, I was cliffed out. I took off my shirt to use as a towel to wipe off the entire pool of sweat that was now my body. I never sweat. My body must have suddenly went into shock as I used ever inch of concentration and energy to quickly get myself out of the scary situation I was not completely out of.
Frustrated with my lack of knowledge in mountaineering, I was loosing hope and reassurance that I would get out without a broken bone at best. I had to pep-talk myself for a solid twenty minutes that I would get out of this unscratched. It was then that I turned to look above and assess my climb up that I saw a human being above me on the trail. Words cannot express how grateful I am to that one stranger whom I never saw again. Seeing that dark figure of a person above me was enough. I was seen, spotted and accounted for on this mountain. They were simply a symbolic reminder that help is easily on the way should I hurt myself.
With a bolt of energy, I started with my first two hand holds. Then one by one, found my feet. I zoned out into a trance as I spent the next hour climbing into the rest of my un-lived life. To this day I cannot tell you how or what brought my mind and body to jump into this muscle memory. If past lives exist, surely I had summited Everest.
The next hour was the best hour of my life. I made it down the mountain, embracing every moment with gratuity. I had so much to see and conquer and this was just the beginning.
However I did loose an hour and was doubting if I could finish the other two summits before nightfall. It was then that I encountered a trail running blazing from the meadow up Missouri. As we crossed paths, he stopped to greet me. I was a little frazzled from my recent dance with death, and he clearly noticed. This kind man took the time to ask what I did, and where I was going. After sharing my story and my hopeful goal to summit the other two, he was the final push I needed to validate I could do it.
So I picked up my pace and spent the next hour in pure bliss, reminiscing on past life and excited about future. The clouds were drifting away into a blanket of blue around me.
From the saddle, I could see the long stretch of elevation decline and gain I would experience before hitting Oxford. I was game. BRING IT.
With a new sense of step, I hurried my way up to the second summit. It was so much better than the first, and I’m pretty sure they were the same views.
I made it across to my last summit of Belford by 4:30pm and celebrated. The weather was completely on my side all day, despite my decisions going against me. I was low on water, after all I packed 16 oz to wet my mouth between summits. I was training myself to drink lots of water before and after the hike, but during just under 20oz.
Anyways, I met a nice old man on my last summit. He offered me water after we spoke about our days and our evenings ahead. He was my moral support system to help me get down and chase darkness out of the woods.
Lesson learned today: never again will I underestimate the power of a pile of rocks. These mountains are majestic and can trial you in many ways.
Some still say its organic shapes were a reflection of the constant movement of thoughts on never-ending ideas. It was remarkable but prudent, complex but minimal, and it’s geometrical lines contrasted beautifully with the curly waves that defined it.
This was my sanctuary, the place where I could go to rest, but also to celebrate. You only have to walk a few steps into the woods to understand the mysterious peace of the valley. Was it the endless organic shapes? Was it the assurance of its geometrical lines? Or was it simply the mountain?