It's hard for me to believe that it has been one year since we stood atop Mt. Hood and gazed down into the shining world below.
What helped me do this feat?
I remember after almost giving up my son, Nathaniel, wore my pack on his front while his own pack rested on his back. The rest of my gear was carried by Norm and Noah. I felt uncomfortable burdening others with my load. But driven by a desire to be a part of a team that works together to achieve the goal. I wanted to keep trying.
I was ready to put on my crampons. My boots were slipping. I would take a step and slide, take a step and slide. My energy was draining away. Immediately one the guides was down on his knees helping me. It took several tries but he was able to get them to work. I was so impressed with their kindness and helpfulness. I knew they wanted me to succeed and were doing all they could to make that happen. That support and their kind manner were key to my success.
There were sections where again I faced extreme fatigue. Somehow after a short rest I could keep going. And this pattern happened over and over.
I wanted to keep trying but it always seemed impossible. The mountain so tall. I remembered my desire to love my husband by doing this adventure together. Each step. I. Love. You.
Sunrise happened. We took off our head lamps and put on our sunglasses. The colors were clear and beautiful. However, I realized we were not on the top (as I had expected). And I was told we were not even half way…this news sat in my heart heavily. Oh my. Even though to me it felt as if we were hiking fast, we were actually going much slower than our guides had expected. Which also meant the snow was going to be soft and more difficult for the rest of our climb up and especially for our descent.
We began our trek up the hogsback. Acrid sulfur odor filled our senses. I could see others were struggling, too. Some other trekkers had their packs carried by others. This team was pulling together. I felt safe and cared for by the team from Climbers for Christ. The encouraging words from the group and especially my husband and sons, Noah and Nathaniel, drew me toward the peak.
As we went through the “Pearly Gates” using the rope (fixed by our guides) to steady our balance, my helmet began to cut off my breath. The strap was too tight. I took it off after a brief moment of panic. I breathed deeply and looked up at Noah and Nathaniel ahead of me, waiting for me and Norm behind me. I felt supported, encouraged. I get choked up remembering this moment. It was so hard for me. Norm attached my helmet to his pack. I tried to attach my harness to the rope but couldn’t see around the mounds of coats I was wearing. I decided to just hold the rope on my way through the Pearly Gates. A grinning Busby crouched near the top of the line encouraging the group going up. He helped us get a family photo!
We passed the one of the guides and he confirmed that, “Yes, that is the summit, just ahead.” We rested with our final upward steps just ahead. Our strategy was to take 10 steps and rest. The four of us, me, Norm, Nathaniel and Noah took our 10 steps and rested all the way up the last part. They all paused and allow me to summit first. Such gentlemen! We did it . We summited together!!! We got a photo together on the top. I remembered my daughter, Olivia’s advice, and got a picture on the top with my arms raised in the air. It all felt very surreal. I kept thinking, “How did this happen? How did I make it? How did my legs keep going all these hours? It was noon. We’d been hiking since 2am…
The top was a razor back edge on one side. The drop down was breath taking. The view magnificent. We could see Jefferson, Baker, Rainier, Helens, Adams, Bachelor poking their noble tops through the clouds. We had blue skies above us. Unbelievable! God had been so kind to us. What a kiss from Him.
We rested, rejoiced and prepared for the descent. It seemed so unbelievable that I had made it to the top. I just couldn’t really believe it was true.
But then I thought, “I have to go DOWN now I don’t think I have the strength for any more hiking.” (Did I mention my 55-year-old bladder? No porta-potties in sight!)
After several photos, a praise song and prayer, we began to prepare to descend. I put on my rain pants, since my pants were wet and I wanted to stay warm. It was hard to maneuver wearing a climbing harness, 7 layers of clothing (including 4 coats) and crampons. Norm helped me get them over the crampons—very tricky! But so worth the effort as you will see later.
We started toward the ? walking along the razor’s edge down to the ? It was crazy steep. Norm held one of my hands. The snow was soft and fell away under my boots. It was hard to hold a step.
Busby told us to crawl on hands and knees backwards down the slope. My neck and shoulders were so tired and hurting this was not possible. I could not hang my head down without loads of pain. I sat on my bottom trying to skootch down. I slid. Luckily not too far. I was able to stop myself. Sliding now was not a good idea. I tried walking sideways. Busby was trying to make a path for us walking back toward the hogs back where we had rested earlier (Norm left his pack there).
One of guides saw me struggling and tried to pack in steps for me to use but for some reason my boots just slipped out of the steps. I don’t know if my weight/shoe size ratio caused this. But I couldn’t seem to make my steps secure. It was unnerving. I began to slide, Norm tried to grab me and ended up sliding with me. We slid for a few seconds heading toward the ? crevasse. I’m not sure what stopped us. Prayers? God’s hand? The snow was soft and we couldn’t get our picks to grab anything solid.
We rested near the bottom of the hogs back where Norm’s pack was waiting. We waited for the remaining members of the group. After taking off my harness, I thought starting down now would be a good idea, since I was the slowest one. For this reason, Norm, Noah and I started down. (Nathaniel was due home and had already left down the mountain.) After crossing back, we got to the part where sliding could be done safely. I was so happy for my slippery pants as I began to slide whenever I could. I made my hiking poles small and sat on the ground, sliding using my poles for steering. Sliding was the most fun! I spun, laughed and kept swooshing down. I knew I’d be bruised. But it was worth it.
Norm, Noah and I made it back to the parking lot by 4pm. I was soaked through all my layers. But victorious.
As I’ve thought about this time I’ve wondered, “how did I make it?”
God’s help. Prayer—mine and others. Encouraging words. Practical support. Team.
What words fill my ears? What support do I have around me? Who is my team? What am I praying for? What expectations limit me? What is my motivation? What seems impossible? What do I really want?
Perhaps I can do more than I think I can do.