Tuesday, August 12, 2014

9:37 PM
To be sure, the mountain looked a long way away as I stood in the parking lot at 6:30 AM last Tuesday morning.  The eight of us had smuggled out of bed at 5 AM, careful not to wake sleeping spouses and kids, chugged down some coffee, full utilized the capacity of the minivan for the 45 minute drive to the trail head, and now were quietly shuffling around - applying sunscreen, donning layers, and cautiously eyeing the minute figure head peeking out from behind miles of forest, ridges and false summits.
See the mountain top back there? WAY back there...
Stalling tactics were finally put to rest against the reality that we had 12.5 miles to hike, over 5,000 vertical feet to climb, and a hard deadline to meet our families for lunch at Elk Lake. And so we started off, walking in single file and small clusters up the wooded trail, breathing deeply across an open and inspired ridge line, and then scrabbling up and through the scree / boulder field flank of the mountain - constantly moving onward and upward, the 10,300' summit in our sights.
Getting Closer
When summiting South Sister had first been proposed as one of the activities for our annual Sunriver Fitcation, I honestly did not jump at the idea.  I have climbed a fair share of mountains in my day, Mt. Whitney twice, Mt. Shasta four times, and a few of the Cascade Mountain Range peaks, including South Sister at least once.  Rising at the crack of dawn and being away from my family for much of a precious vacation day was not compelling, but as the email banter continued, and the interest swelled, I began to get more excited at the prospect of standing tall on a mountain peak. I negotiated a trade with my husband - he got 4 hours of mountain biking for my 6 hours of hiking - and committed to doing the ascent.

The experience itself was fantastic, and as I tromped along, and reminisced about the experience afterward, a few things came to mind as to why climbing a mountain - any mountain - is so freaking awesome.

The Inspiration. Looking at a mountain peak - massive, unrelenting, unfathomable from down below and saying I climbed that! is pretty darn cool.  Showing the mountain you climbed to your 6 YO daughter and having her say Mommy, I want to climb a mountain with you - well, that takes the cake.

The Comradery. Sharing a life story as you climb, a snack along the way, and a yoga pose photo at the summit just brings you that much closer to the people you are sharing this fairly epic experience with. Showing someone else the view can make it even more transformative, and tandem glissading is just that much more fun.  It is often better to hike with someone  for safety reasons. With the right people there is no better way to solidify a friendship.

The Physicality. I am all for doing things that are hard, sometimes even punishingly hard, and climbing a mountain can certainly be extremely difficult.  It can also be one of those stealth workouts that sneaks up on you 12-24 hours later when you suddenly discover a new level of soreness in your quads that is going to stick around for several days such that you will no longer be able to walk up or down stars without wincing. aaaahhh... the good stuff.

The Perspective. The right pace, the right gear, and the right amount of grit can get you many places in life, including the top of a tall mountain.  Learning this about yourself - that you can overcome many obstacles and literally come out on top is an invaluable life lesson.  So is the perspective gained from seeing how small things seem when you get some distance from them.  There are many benefits, both physical and mental, to be gained from summiting a peak - renewed self-confidence and a revised outlook being among them.

The Challenge.  We had not been at the summit for 5 minutes before one of the group, keenly eyeing the neighboring peaks of Middle and North Sister mused out loud I wonder if people climb all three peaks in one day. And the gauntlet was thrown...

Looks doable, right?
To learn more about my Fitness Project, please contact me at Mommytasker@gmail.com,MommyTasker.com, or connect with me on Facebook.


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