I’ve been training to summit Mt. Whitney for 7 months now. I’ve stayed up at night to read the blogs of those who have day-climbed her granite-ness and lived to tell the tale. I’ve weighed the options of water bladder versus bottle, day pack or frame pack, sock liners and wools or wools alone, trekking poles versus my hard-earned core strength. Nary a detail has escaped my ponder-prone being. Should we leave at 2AM or 1:30AM? What color of gray in the belly of a cloud should send us scurrying like chipmunks down the mount?
Details, details, details…
Yesterday Miss Razzle Dazzle and I hiked to Chicken Spring Lake to acclimate and get the legs pumping. Near the halfway point of our 10-mile hike above 10,000 feet I looked up from under the visor of my over-sized desert hat and felt as if the wind had been knocked out of first my right lung, then my left. A row of sentries lined the sandy path as it climbed north then south then north, a series of switchbacks that had lulled me into a stupor. The sentries, trees I have yet to identify other than knowing they are evergreens, were stripped down exposing sunset golden flesh that curved round and round like the lines of barbershop poles. They staggered their places on the trail as if to always be within reach in case one of us should stumble. Most of their limbs had been sheared off, by the elements I imagine, with many having no greenery to decorate their stubby arms if they still had them. I turned to see that a dozen or so had already witnessed our passing with another dozen or so patiently awaiting our arrival.
In the midst of a sparse, lunar-esque landscape stood 24 ‘gingers’. Basically, they were me if I were a tree. And I nearly missed them all because I was staring at my flipper feet, obsessively observing every cell of my body for signs that I wasn’t ready, wasn’t strong enough, too Piscean to exist above sea level.
For all the pontificating I’ve done on the pages of HGM about bonding with nature, letting her be the guide as I walk my path, I was taking an entirely too scientific approach on my climb of Mt. Whitney. I needed to let go and (Watch me spell this correctly!) breathe.
The next 800 feet of ascension was so much smoother. Sure, I was acclimating, but I also loosened the clench that began in my mind and attempted to take over my being. I softened my gaze and began to focus on the boulders strewn about like rock candy and the whitest clouds that seemed close enough to kiss, backed by a sky so blue it simply did not look real. As the oxygen got thinner, I felt more full of life. As the clenching eased and the brow released my perma-smile returned.
I felt alive. Strong. Beautiful.
It’s easy to be consumed by the tasks at hand. Especially one hand-picked and so exciting like summiting a mountain for a hiker or painting a mural for a painter. I’m grateful that I was able to feel what was happening on my warm-up hike. While I need to pay attention – to the trail, the bears, the signs of altitude sickness – this hike is about honoring Nature and showing her the love that she has shown me.
In 7 hours I will begin a climb I have looked forward to for 7 months. I will be fully present in the moment and centered on absorbing the sensual delights around me, like the soft alpine rain that fell on us at the Whitney Portal this afternoon and the trees growing where only the wind could have planted them.
Need sleep…I am so grateful for your support, love and overall amazingness. You, kittens, rock. Each and every one of you.
I’ll update twitter when the mountain permits.