The thing I learned a long time ago about climbing big mountains is that it’s not always fun while you’re doing it.
It’s not until later, perhaps from the highway below driving away, when all the suffering from cold and fatigue and dehydration is over, when your sore feet don’t have to take another step toward some distant destination, when your hips and shoulders can forget about your 45-pound pack grinding its weight into your skin and bones, when the air is so thick in your lungs that you can say long sentences or take a long drink of water without pausing for breath, or sometimes weeks later when you’ve fully recovered mentally and emotionally, that the best rewards arrive.
That’s when the entire ordeal – suffering and all – become glorious! And beautiful. And deeply, deeply satisfying. That’s when you realize how much the suffering and effort and dogged determination to reach the top has made you grow, and how much of a better person you are for the experience.
This is good to remember when in the midst of difficulties. Good to remember that trails and trials don’t last forever. That there will be rest, and everything will be okay again. Good to remember to never give up, but keep plodding along until you reach your destination. The trail along the way may be beautiful, but you can’t stay there forever. The conditions may be extremely uncomfortable, but they don’t last, either. You may need to pause to catch your breath or regain your strength, but the more steadily you keep placing one foot in front of the other, the sooner you will find rest, whether at base camp, advanced base camp, a brief pause on the summit, or finally home again, safe and sound, with comforts you couldn’t have even comprehended in the midst of your suffering.
When the going gets tough, remember. Remember this moment to later look back on with awe and inspiration to know that you persevered, and gratitude that it’s over!
I finally deleted 20 GB of data from my computer so I’d have space to finish editing a video from climbing Cerro el Plomo in the Chilean Andes last year just in time to give it to my Dad for Christmas.
My favorite spot in the film is when I’m standing on top of the nearly-18,000′ mountain. I had been climbing alone for hours. The daily snow storm was blowing in from the nearby ocean. I have never felt more exhausted in my life. I wanted to lay down and never move again. 100′ of elevation below the top, I was wishing desperately I would get nauseous and throw up so I could diagnose altitude sickness and have to turn back. What I like about it is the way I say “I’m TIRED.” Yes, I was tired, but even though it took so much mentally to even step over a 4′-high pile of rocks, I was far from finished! I could have gone on in that very difficult state for much, much farther had it been necessary.
Anyway, here’s the trailer for your enjoyment.