Three times over the past few weeks, I have wanted to climb Mt. Sniktau. With an elevation greater than 13,000 feet, it makes sense to get an early morning start. Each of those three mornings, the alarm went off at 4am and after checking the weather, I decided not to go. Weather changes rapidly on the front range here in Colorado and the weather forecast on the mountain when I go to bed at night is not necessarily the same as when I wake up. I’m not too concerned about the cold. After hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro with temperatures as low as -18°F, I have the appropriate attire in layers. It is the lightening I am most concerned about. Being above tree line in a lightening storm is like being a human lightening rod. No thank you! If I see predicted lightening within two hours of when I should back down below tree line, I call it.
After three weather calls in a short time, both my partner and daughter said the same thing to me, “I think it’s a sign. Maybe you shouldn’t go.” To be honest, I even thought the same thing. Seeing as though we are on the cusp of September, there won’t be many more opportunities this season to get a hike on this mountain without the risk of ice, snow and avalanche. The notion of “It’s a sign, don’t go.” was quickly replaced with me questioning myself, “So, What? What do I do, wait until next year?” I might not even be alive next year. The moment is now.
This morning the alarm went off at 4am, and like the other three recent mornings, I got up and checked the weather. Good to go baby!
I made it to the mountain and started my hike pre-dawn in the pitch dark with only the light of the moon and my headlamp. My senses were on overdrive and I was ALIVE! After a pretty steep ascent and climbing past the first few ridges, the wind began to pick up. Mt. Sniktau is known for its relentless wind and today did not disappoint. The wind gusts were over 40mph and were constant. I would lift my poles and they would fly sideways. The only poles I could resort to were my own two legs. My body and face stayed warm in my layers, but my hands got so unbelievably cold. The gloves were not helping today. It was like the wind just whipped right through them. I even felt my eyelashes and eyebrows blowing. I never felt that before. It was kind of cool. I kept my head down and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. At one point I thought to myself, “This is no longer fun.” My hands were burning with pain and I thought about turning around. If only I get back down lower, the surrounding mountains would block my wind and all my pain would go away. Then I thought, “Am I thinking about turning around because this is not safe or is it because I am uncomfortable?” The answer was the latter. With that in my mind, forward on I went. I thrived the remainder of the hike.
It’s not about the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.
It is the times in our lives when we live outside our comfort zone that great things happen. I was reminded today of my resilience and strength. I was reminded how healthy and strong my body is. I was reminded what the beauty of the sunrise was like on the front range. I was reminded of my love of the Colorado blue sky. I was reminded of the sound of my boots crunching the Earth below them. I was reminded of the sound of my breath when I am sucking wind at the high-altitude ascents. I was reminded that I am ALIVE!
Don’t wait until some time in the future. There may be no future. All we have is today. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We only get one chance at this thing called life. Rock it!