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Friday, June 27, 2014

A lesson in humility

Day 4 6/16
Mileage 13

Today rocked me. It was without a doubt one of the most challenging days of my life. It started out waist enough, but clear trail gave way to snowy trail, and snowy trail gave way to no trail and sketchy slopes. We finished one traverse and arrived on a ridge to find two other sobos who had come from Canada. They pointed us to where they had come from, which turned out to be a steep (basically straight down) snow-covered precipice leading to a giant chute to traverse. We began traversing, and with it began the longest three hours of my life. Picture some stairs. I big old set of stairs. Maybe a quarter of a mile long. Go halfway up these stairs. Then take away the steps and make it a slope. Then cover the slope with dirt, then on top of that put a couple inches of slushy, slippery snow that would be difficult to walk on on a level surface, and that should give you a good idea of what we found ourselves crossing. A fall would have meant serious injury at least. Z and Donald, the former lacking an ice axe and the latter being more prudent than I, decided against continuing, and turned back, and I began hiking with Mark and Michael, two recent grads from Northern Arizona University in environmental studies and environmental science, if I remember correctly. As I hiked (if you can call it hiking) I began to get into a sort of rhythm, where I'd take two steps, plant my ice axe as deeply as I could in the snow, then take two more steps, and so on. Step step plant. Step step plant. For three hours. Woof. The length of the traverse was at most half a mile, maybe half that even, making it not only the longest three hours of my life, but also the slowest. I don't know if I've ever not moved that much in three hours. It was also snowing, did I mention? It fluctuated between snow and freezing rain, decreasing both visibility and my morale considerably.

It was, to say the least, a humbling experience. Never have I been so acutely aware of the gravity of my situation. When we finished the traverse, I didn't even feel victorious. I felt simply humbled, relieved, and grateful. I have gained a newfound respect for nature's power. The last thing Donald said to me was "don't do anything stupid." Sorry, Donald. After that, it began to snow heavily. It quickly escalated to whiteout conditions, but there was nowhere to stop and camp. I have never been so drained, physically and mentally. When the trail started to descend, Mark exclaimed "It's so nice to not be afraid for your life, I've never really appreciated that before" or something like that. I couldn't agree more. Water was scarce, I was hungry, I was wet, and I was cold. In retrospect, I'm amazed I was able to push through. Now we descend to Canada! I will absolutely not be returning the way I came, so we'll see what happens.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty darn moving. I ached for you. But this is my favorite sentence: I don't know if I've ever not moved that much in three hours.