Friday, February 27, 2009

Snowy Solo Summit

it was thursday of last week and i had this overwhelming need to prove something to myself... or maybe at that point it was just that i was bored from sitting through eight hours of lectures that day and it was like spring outside. either way, by the end of friday i was determined not to let myself down; i felt this unremarkable urgency to do something impulsive and i knew the only way i could succeed would be by hiking mount monadnock.

by myself.
up a trail i had
never hiked.
in the snow.

so it was saturday. gorgeous. highs in the high 30s. i packed a bag full of layers [that i never ended up using] and ran to my friend kate's house to borrow her cramp-ons.

the hike was as expected. it started out well enough, with a half mile walk in ankle-deep snow from where i had to ditch my car to the base of the trailhead. the first part of the trail was equally well paced. half an hour in i reached the trail register and had i not stopped to read the notebook inside the ziplock baggy, i would never have known that the trail i was about to hike was "closed." but what was a girl to do? it was the perfect day and i wasn't about to waste it by turning around and going back to my car. and besides, it wasn't for another half hour until i hit ice and actually needed to use the cramp-ons.

after that first small patch of ice the remainder of the trail was much different. the snow was getting deeper and there were parts of the trail that invovled me pushing uphill through thigh-deep snow, cramp-ons clutching to the ice-covered rocks below me. that is, if i could even find the trail... i was hiking the marlboro which is marked only by cairns, which, at this time of year, are still completly covered in snow. later, on the way down, i would not waste my time counting the number of times i came to a spot where my tracks turned round in circles looking for the trail.

there were definately times i thought that i was lost. or that the trail i was following was only taking me farther away from the summit. but really, i figured, the worst that could happen is that if after three hours i am no further up the mountain, and exhausted, i will just follow my footprints back down.

this never ended up being the case, because after only two and a quarter hours i reached the top of the false treeline. half an hour later i was at the top, whistling with the wind.
i tried eating my peanut butter and fluff sandwich but it was too cold, and i was surprisingly not very hungry. i threw the sandwhich back into my bag and started my descent.

on my way up i had felt small and vulnerable. on my way down i felt as big as the mountain. there had been times when i had considered turning around "no one will know" i thought to myself. but that wasn't the point. the point was to prove it to myself that i could do it. and i did.

an hour later i reached my car.

on the radio driving home, speaking of faith was on npr. the guest they had was an astro- physisicst and they were talking about the universe and spirituality. that is probably one of my favorite subjects and after having just conquered the mountain it was a very nice cap to my afternoon of feeling infinite.