I took this photo last week on Bear Peak Trail in Boulder, Colorado. Since I was pretty sure I was going to black out and fall off the mountain, I wanted to make sure the whole thing was well documented so they’d have pretty pictures to show at my funeral. My iphone case is seemingly sturdy so I was confident it would survive the fall and rescuers would be able to salvage my photos.
I agreed to go on the hike for my friend’s birthday under the pretenses that we would be back by 6pm, and I’d be in for a mild to moderate workout. I had work to do, and I wasn’t trying to exhaust myself to such a point that I wouldn’t be able to function.
Can you see where this is going?
After stopping at Sprouts to grab some snacks and Bhakti we headed for the trail. Side note: if you haven’t had Bhakti Chai, you’re missing out. It’s a crazy combination of ginger and chai that tastes exactly like it sounds.
I was told that the trail is mostly flat until it juts up and that’s where shit gets real. After 40 minutes of “flat” I was worried that the altitude and my inability to do “fit” would pose a problem. I was struggling to breathe and the real hike hadn’t even started.
As we got closer to the flatirons a storm rolled in that threatened the entire mission. Since getting struck by lightning on these peaks is a legitimate concern, we hid under some trees and ate hummus while it passed. I’m pretty sure I was taught that “under a tree” is not the best place to be during a storm, but who am I to question these things.
Eventually the rain stopped and we picked up our packs again. I was sure we only had an hour or so left to the peak and I was excited!
After what felt like DAYS, and a dozen “we’re almost to the first landing!” I was starting to get skeptical. And by skeptical, I mean impatient. This was not moderate. This was hard as shit. I took it upon myself to ask another hiker who was headed down the mountain, how much time is left? Really?
He said 20 minutes to the first landing, then another 20 to the summit. Okay, finally some numbers that mean something. Thank you for managing my expectations kind stranger!
I should note that this stranger also told us, he’d been up on the peak when the storm passed and had to hide under a rock to avoid the hail that was raining down. These Colorado storms don’t mess around.
It should come as no surprise that we did not reach the first landing after 20 more minutes. Eventually we did and it was beautiful, but DAMN was I getting stressed.
At 5 o clock (4 hours into the hike), we still had not reached the summit. By this point, I had cycled through every motivational cliche I could think of.
“You can do anything.” was my flavor of choice and I had it playing on repeat. I knew if I just kept up with the 22 yr olds a little bit longer that it would all be worth it. Think of the social media opportunities at the top!!
Despite the fact that my legs were surely about to stop working and I was seeing spots, I was feeling anxious about the fact that work was becoming less and less likely. I don’t like letting my clients down, and I don’t like being in situations I can’t control. The reality was that I was trapped on a beautiful mountain in Boulder and I had no idea when I’d be getting off it. (I know, life is tough).
The closer we got to the summit though, the less I cared about pushing work to the next morning. This view was something I would never forget, and I doubt that the project management back at my laptop would really stick with me past the weekend.
Also, I WAS ACCOMPLISHING SHIT.
So 25 hours into the hike, we summited. (okay it was more like 5 hours). I hadn’t died!
I was confident that I might, sitting there on the peak, but I hadn’t yet!
If you’ve never summited a peak--and I hadn’t--it’s pretty badass. Once the trail fades away, there’s nothing left at the top but rock. Rock on rock on rock. Which somehow doesn’t budge out of place and send you careening to your death. Or maybe it does sometimes?
Either way, there we were. Perched on top of these precarious rocks at 8,500 feet just staring down the side of a mountain. I had no regrets.
I had told myself “you can do anything” and I was right.
So what did I learn?
Well, I took from that experience [yet again] the fact that I really value people managing my expectations. I feel anxious and chaotic when it doesn't seem like people are giving it to me straight. All I can do with this knowledge is try to manage the expectations of others. Show them respect by always being upfront and then letting them decide for themselves how they want to proceed.
I also reiterated to myself the value of just living. Getting outside. Away from my desk and just living. The truth is that I tend to be really good at pushing work for the pleasure of the moment, but the hike supported my instincts to do so. I was right where I was supposed to be.
The biggest takeaway for me though was my ability to do. anything. Have I mentioned how hard the hike was? Because it was hard as shit. But I did it! It’s comforting to have that knowledge for the next time I want to do something and feel like I can’t.
- You can do anything. Seriously!
- Manage Kim’s expectations whenever possible.
- Go climb a mountain. There’s a slim chance you won’t learn something along the way.