It seemed like a good idea five months ago when I signed up for the August hike up Mt. Shuksan and the Sulphide Glacier. It doesn’t seem like such a good idea now. I would like a do-over for the mornings I slept in and the days off I spent on the couch instead of the gym.
As I sweat through early morning workouts I think, “If three minutes of burpees are hard how will I ever get through a 10 hour hike up a mountain with a 40 pound pack?” As I plod up the sledding hill carrying the a backpack weighted with bags of rice and beans, I think, “Who exactly do I think I am?”
I have visions of everyone else in the group loping ahead and leaving me behind with a guide who gives me a strangled smile and says things like, “You’re doing great.” “Keep at it.” “You can do it.” Until the guides huddle together and in whispers decide that I can’t do it, that I’ll never make the final summit. I will nod in agreement that safety is the most important thing. The other hikers will give me sad looks while they tell me I should be proud for making it as far as I did.
I keep remembering a party my sister took me to the summer before she went to college and I started high school. We played softball, but I can’t play softball and to be nice they made me stay at home plate swinging at every pitch until I finally hit that stupid ball. When I finally hit the ball, it flew up and sideways, right along the path to home plate. No one called it a foul because they were all glad the game could finally go on, and the ball came down and hit me in the shoulder. I got myself out. At least no one said, “Good job.”
When I get up for the 5:30 AM “Boot Camp” class at the YMCA or carry a heavy pack on a long dog walk in the rain, I wish I could know for certain that it’ll be worth it. I wish I had a guarantee that the 10 hour hike will be a challenge but not insurmountable, that I’ll be able to do the 600 feet of technical climbing without weeping in frustration. I wish I could know for certain that I’ll make it to the top of Mt. Shuksan. And back down. Without hurting myself. But there is no guarantee. Risking not getting to the top is the only way to make it to the summit.