Pole. Pole. Step. Step. Exhale.
Pole. Pole. Step. Step. Exhale. Sob
Pole. Whimper. Pole. Sob. Step. Stumble. Exhale. Moan.
After the miraculously successful "bagging" of Mt.Langley just over a week ago (written about in my previously uplifting blog) I had gained a certain confidence which I was utterly and completely stripped of only half way up to Mt.Baldy this past Saturday. What the hell happened?
Yeah Baldy is only 10,064ft, in contrast to Mt.Langley's 14,000+, but this time the elevation gain was over 5,800 in just 6.4 miles, which basically meant hiking straight up in a temperature that started off at 82 at 6 a.m and rose to 105 by mid-day. Sam and I had joined the well-seasoned Tony, the hiking Tiger, and his girlfriend, Cheryl, who was about my mother's age, so I mistakenly thought she would actually hike like my mom. I couldn't have been more wrong.
We were doing the back route to Baldy starting at the visitor center (The Bear Canyon Trail), which snakes and switchbacks it way up, up, up and more up to the very top. I am not fond of "up" hikes, as I call them, and Sam knows what my typical reaction will be when he proposes one, so he saves that part until last, then slips in, "Oh yeah, it's kind of an up-hike." I whine and moan and say, "You know how I feel about up-hikes!" But then he lures me in with his handsome smile and promises of breathe-taking views, spectacular landscapes and the scrumptious picnic we will have once we reach the top, which will make it all worth it- he says.
On Baldy there are no pristine lakes to gaze at, nor magical meadows to whisk away my imagination since it's a dry, rocky training mountain for the ambition mountaineers who are planning bigger trips and need practice. Sam will be doing a super human trek next weekend by hiking the Palisades Traverse which hits five 14,000ft peaks in one day. Yes- one day. Obviously I will not be joining him on that mega up-hike and I was certainly not helping his training efforts any by dragging myself up Baldy. During an unconscious lapse of better judgement I agreed to Baldy instead of honoring myself and my previous made decision about taking a break from up-hikes after Langley.
We were up at 4 a.m and on the mountain by 6. The fuel of a coffee-energy duo drink allowed me to keep a good pace and to be in a perky and motivated mood. Then the elevation hit. I trudged away, step after steep step when suddenly my mind turned on me. Now I am fully aware of the vicious committee which resides in my head and can take over my well-being at any moment. At this point in my life I have it pretty well monitored and I've learned techniques to help myself. This being especially important when doing up-hikes ,which is when the shitty committee can get uncomfortably vocal. My I-pod helps, doing walking meditations help, singing, thinking positive thoughts. etc. Sam even graciously presented me with an article from Backpacker magazine with Psychological tactics for climbing mountains. This time nothing worked and it started to get really bad. So bad that my head kept shouting "Clusterfuck fury!" I am not sure where that came from, or why that pairing of words was put together, but it would be better off as the name of a death metal band- than my hiking mantra.
Cheryl passed me with light and methodical steps as Sam and Tony easily handled the elevation while chatting about the flora and fauna and other Baldy factoids. There were supposedly big horn sheep that traveled in packs, but were a rarity to see on the mountain.
Clusterfuck Fury. Clusterfuck Fury. Shuuuut up!!!
I was engaged in an all out battle with my devious and unrelenting mind- and losing. I was pretty clear on what triggered it. I had not adhered to my previous decision to not hike Baldy, so I could recover from Langley and enjoy my last weekend before going back to work on Monday. But what did I do? Get up at 4am and do the ultimate up-hike in oven-like temperatures on a bleak mountainside. Clusterfuck Fury!
The heat was nearly unbearable at the midway point at Bear Flats (inappropriately named- flat-) I couldn't go on, but I remained mute and trekked on anyway, pushing off before Sam and Tony to get a head start. I came to what I thought would be the top of the peak and saw the switchbacking trail zig zagging straight up the mountainside ahead. A little tear streaked down my face, and then it was all over. Sam could probably see my trembling chin as I walked back down the trail toward him, wrapped my arms around him and began to sob like a little girl. He didn't say a word and just let me cry it out. He rubbed my back, gave me some candy from his secret supply of "Annie Meltdown" treats that I guess he had prepared for. Eventually I got to my feet and headed back up the mountain.
Pole. Pole. Step. Step. Exhale.
About an hour later I began whimpering with each step as my body stiffened up and my legs began to feel lifeless.
Pole. Pole. Step. Step. Exhale. Sob
Pole. Whimper. Pole. Sniffle. Step. Stumble. Exhale. Moan.
After another break and a "Tommy the Train" pep talk from Sam I was heaved back on my feet yet again. This time through tears and a last ditch effort to find the strength within I decided to reach out to my Higher Power- My Divine Spirit- My God, for guidance.
I was skeptical, delirious and and nearly defeated, but I called out in my head to the all Powerful One above. "Ok God! If you really think I can do this then....then...show me a sign! A sheep will do. Thank you."
Not five minutes later I saw it. A young bighorn sheep. Just like I had asked. Not in a herd which is how they usually travel, but all by itself. A sheep. Hysterical laughter consumed me. The quickness and efficiency that my Higher Power responded to my very specific request was nothing short of a miracle. Then it hit me. Oh boy, I guess that means I am suppose to make it to the top of this damn mountain. Tony got a shot of my lucky sheep which will help me remember the immense power in prayer and that God has a very funny sense of humor.
I did make it to the top of the Old Bald Headed Mountain. Sam had prepared a marvelous picnic and the views were quite enjoyable, especially with the storm cloud formations in the distance. Cheryl had already been at the top for quite a while as I staggered up the last stretch. While perched on a rock staring off and reflecting on the journey, a man came up to me and commented, "You really look happy." I immediately defended my face saying flatly, "it's a grimace." Then I wondered-maybe there was a bit of peaceful joy in my face.
If we were to go through our lives without any obstacles, we would be just a shadow of real selves. By doing things that make us uncomfortable we build character and it provides us with experiences that makes us stronger and more valuable members of society. Give every opportunity a chance, but listen to your intuition, and don't forget the power in the struggle.
Was inspired by a sheep.
And then felt no struggle whatsoever in choosing... to take the chairlift down.