9/17/2009

Things that go up must come down.

Arden and I have two very dear friends that also happen to be married to one another. They also happen to live only a block away from us. We share many meals, many neighborly cups of sugar, many mugs of coffee, and many evenings together. This year, as summer came to a close we were invited on a "Birthday Hike" of sorts. Our friend, a seasoned hiker through and through wanted to turn 25 on a mountain-top and invited us along for a weekend of taming the wild and conquering summits. Having had a summer of not REALLY leaving the city all that much and mostly putting our nose to the grindstone for the majority of the season we jumped at the chance to spend a weekend in the mountains with our 'buds.

But first, we had a couple preliminary questions:

How tall is this mountain?
"It is a 1300 meter elevation gain in about 7 km."
This basically meant NOTHING to me the amateur hiker. I try and be active and as much as I haven't gone on too many hikes lately, I have been on a handful of really long excursions in the Papua New Guinean Jungle growing up. Same thing? Nope.

How long will this hike take?
"Pretty much all day."
I thought to myself, "I can hike all day."
Nope. Not straight up, you can't.

We were warned.
"This has been called the hardest hike in the Canadian Rockies."
I even got a small,
"Are you sure you're going to be OK with this?" from Arden. To which I basically replied,
"I can hike. I have blood sugar issues but as long as we have ample emergency snacks and water I should be fine. If I get tired I just slow down."

Side note: I also decided to run 9 kilometers the day before this big hike and may or may not have done a good job stretching. Some muscle in my right leg was extra sore the next day, particularly whenever I tried to lunge/step forward. Wait. Isn't that what you do when you go up a mountain? Naaaaaaaa.

Corie arranged for us to share an adorable little condo in Canmore and we started out bright and early Sunday morning for the base of Mount Allan. We hit the trail around 10 am. Bright skies. Brisk mountain air.



The first 2 kilometers went pretty quickly. Only a slight gain in elevation and the view was spectacular. It wasn't too long before it felt like we were pretty high up. "Wow, we should reach the summit just after lunch time" I thought grossly optimistically to myself.

It wasn't until we crested the summit of Mount Olympic that we could actually see Mount Allan head on. It took a couple frantic looks at the guide book before we could actually will ourselves to admit that the giant and menacing mountain up ahead was indeed ours.
"Wait, how many more meters do we have to go?"
"About 700."
"That's 700? THAT'S 700?????"
"Aw, crap" Arden chimed in.



"Well, we came for the Mountain and Mountain, we will have you yet."

Lunch time was refreshing but short lived. A couple sandwiches. A couple fruit bars. A couple handfuls of craisins. A few deep guzzles of water. A few more frantic breezes through the guide book. I was not mentally prepared to scale a mountain unless we were ABSOLUTELY positive it is the right one.

My legs were tired. No, not tired. Spent. It was time to grit my teeth really hard... over and over and over again. There was one point after we had winded through the Pinnacles and up a substantial amount of loose shale that I turned to Arden guarding my back and just panted,
"Oh honey."
To which he responded with the same phrase he had been panting behind me for the past four hours,
"You're doing awesome."

I have never given birth. I'm just putting that out there. I certainly hope to one day but as of right now, scaling a mountain is the only thing I have ever done that has come physically and mentally close to what I can only imagine the frantic, wondrous, tedious, raw, and furious process of birthing a child must be like. O Lord. Have mercy.

By 3:30pm or so, we reached the summit of Mount Allan. We crested the mountainside to find the top empty. Corie described the space awaiting us as, "deafeningly quiet." (Totally, NOT like child-birth then right?)

We had left the tree line 3 hours prior and now there was nothing awaiting us but a panoramic host of stark mountaintops singing silence, calm, and stillness in three part harmony. Their shapes rising and falling into a scape of blue hues.




It would be five more hours downhill before I would collapse into the car for the short ride to our rented home for the night.

We all felt battered. Triumphant, but battered. I tumbled into bed, thankful for warmth, thankful my legs were horizontal, thankful for new things, grateful for sleep, sore in every crevice of my being.

2 comments:

R & J said...

I love this. You have such a way with words, my friend. Good for you for getting through it. This totally reminds me of my hike up Mt. Ellinor in Washington. I wrote a post about it here: http://prettymuchliqi.blogspot.com/2008/09/bleating-love.html

I didn't go into as much detail about the actual hike itself and how I was in tears at least once (don't tell). But I do feel your pain...Your view looked amazing!!

Cass said...

But you made it! Whoo!