Peak is further than it seems

I had been restless, nervous, anxious, and had all sorts of emotions, after I signed up to climb Mt Adams, the second highest peak in the WA state.

The initial day of climbing (early June) was not possible, because of the poor weather conditions. Lots of snowfall, and heavy winds at the top, even at 9000 ft.

So a good friend of mine, and I pushed the dates out to the first weekend of July. The weekend right after my IM 70.3 Coeur D Alene race. Perfect, right !! 14,000 + ft of climbing to relax after a half-IM.

Come the weekend of July. K and I drove from Renton to the Adams trailhead. We planned to leave early, drive for 4 hours, and then start the hike around 11 am. That would give us enough time to reach the lunch counter (midway stop for most hikers) before 5-6 pm.

I must say, the backpack was heavy, had never done this kind of hiking before. Probably carrying 40-45 lbs. When I started to hike, it did not feel that bad, but the sweating was quick and real. Started seeing slush, snow, and hard to walk trails. Just kept following the shoe tracks. K was always in front of me. I knew that I could push myself, because of the endurance and mental training I have been doing. The load on the back, and the whole idea of ascending a mountain was overwhelming.

Every step ascending was not easy, but worth an experience. Being conservative, and having patience helps. If you are not patient enough, don’t worry backpacking in wilderness teaches you that. Don’t think of taking quick strides, or brisk walking up, because what seems as the top, is never the top. Respect the elevation, be patient, and put one foot in front of the other.

Reaching the lunch counter was such a relief. At 9000 ft after putting our bags down, and putting up the tent, I started to feel a bit nauseous, heavy headed, and dizzy. K told me this is mountain sickness. He asked me not to lie down, instead walk around a bit. I was hungry, so ate some pre-cooked rice, and lentils. I had never eaten such tasty ‘Rajma-Chawal’ (indian dish – rice and pinto beans) ever in my life. They were cold, and dry, but everything tastes good at an elevation. I guess you realize and respect food when you are devoid of it for hours and days.

The sunset and night was the best thing of the trip. The night stars were surreal. Every human should once in their lifetime get out and be in the wilderness. We live on such a beautiful planet.

The next day was the ascend to the top. The day started with a steep hike up the slope. And that slope was never ending. But this time I was only carrying a small backpack, leaving most of the stuff at the camp site. The climb was no joke. Climbing with crampons, every step after the first hour was a struggle. I started to feel some heart burn or maybe lung burn, could have been the altitude. It’s easy to just stop and rest, but the longer you rest going up, the more challenging the descend becomes. So I slowed down, and without worrying about the top, I focussed on one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, I would stop, take a few breaths, turn around and look at the beautiful scenery. Wow!! we miss all this in our daily lives.

As I reached the top, I realized that it is a false summit. The peak is further than it seems. Before you reach your goal, there are lot of mid goals, that you need to reach. And each of those smaller goals teach you patience, sincerity, and consistency.

To get stronger in your craft, consistency is the single most thing that anyone needs and should practice.

Coming down was harder than going up. By the time we were to come down, sun was strong, and most of the snow started to melt. It was scary to slide down, I was honestly scared of the steep grade. So I just switched to ‘Consistently take slower and smaller steps down’.

From the false summit onwards, I still continued walking down, but then I saw folks sliding, and gave it a try. Sliding down was way cooler and faster :). Back to the campsite, pack up and started the hike down.

Hiking down, also seemed too long. I was exhausted. The walk felt never ending. Had a tunnel vision by now. For me the hike was not over until I stopped seeing snow. By the last hour of my hike, I almost started hating snow-sludge. Legs were tired to the point, that I kept falling and sliding, all over.

I relaxed and said “its the home stretch now”, from the point I saw the Mt Adams trailhead sign at the parking lot. I did not say it 1 mile or 1/2 mile before, I was that trashed.

For me this was the first ascent. I definitely could not have done it without the endurance training I do for triathlon.

Patience and consistency is what I got out of this.

Never focus on reaching the summit, focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

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