After climbing baldy 18 times in the last three months you would hafta imagine im in great shape heading up to 16000' summit of mt kenya. Or at least the best shape i could be in given where i live. But the danger of being well-prepared is that it makes you confident. You pass people going up the trail like theyre standing still. Usually they are standing still trying to catch their breath. In snowy conditions you push through with less gear and a smile to boot. Time and again you survive the freezing hands and numb feet, the blistering sun, the blasting winds. You become familiar with these sensations and learn to ignore them. You subtly begin to expect that no matter what you encounter you will get home because you always have. Theres no big crisis. You are adapting. Then one especially hazardous day you ignore the hesitant feeling in the back of your neck. You drag your heels in the gravel and slide across the ice as you are pushed along by a heavy wind towards the edge. You laugh because your ready for this and you know youd rather face the consequences then spend life wondering. Wondering what if. Its too cold to slow down because youve brought minimal clothing. You keep moving as the danger becomes eminently tangible. A loose rock spins out from under you and your knee spirals 180 before snapping back into position. No more laughing. You tell yourself to be more careful but its too late. As the mind begins to hesitate it wont keep up with the pace at which the dangerous obstacles are approaching. A sudden 100mph gust and you are going over. Its a distinct recognizable and humbling admition of defeat almost in slow motion you realize this is not a close call, you are not gonna save yourself from this, you are going down. Impact, pain, panic. Broken. How broken? Still limping. Why am being so careless? The wind doesnt take you seriously and it hesitates for only a moment before smashing you again with violent eruptions of noise and cold and fear. No choice but to move. No way out but through. As the deafening wind errupts intimidatingly, there is calm again inside my head... this wont kill me, im not going to die from this. Im going to get pelted with icicles and swirling snow flurrys as i scramble through 4 foot snow drifts on a ridge no wider then the trail dropping 1000'+ on either side. Ill limp back to my car to my cabin to my hot shower and meal. Ill gaze at my wounds from a distance. Will i know the danger was real? That a few feet, a few degrees makes all the difference. Have i matured to this level of risk or simply become more numb the closer i get.
Reflecting on a succesful bout of training is so rewarding. How lucky i am to have spent so many days out in the cold, above the clouds, moving through the heavens. But if i can take anything away from this final run its this:
The only thing worse than not being poperly trained is being over-confident.
Posted from the Road