It’s been a few months since I achieved this goal, but it was a big one for me and deserving of at least a few words. This was one of the most physically (and mentally) challenging things I’ve ever done. I did indeed train all throughout the spring and summer by climbing other near by mountain/foothill peaks. Over and over and over. For months. I joined a local hiking club that summits Mt. Borah every year, since I figured there was no way I could tackle the mountain on my own. I took a trip to Zion Nat’l park in June and climbed Angel’s Landing to confront my fear of heights. I did not do this alone and don’t think I would have been able to accomplish this solo without my stubborn and competitive nature urging me on. At least my ex was good for something (hahahaha! ;)
ANYWAY, preparing for Borah took time not only physically conditioning myself, but researching the hike to understand what to expect. I feel like I was well geared and physically at my peak which made my summit possible and more enjoyable than it could have been.
That being said, the climb itself was physically BRUTAL. We left camp before the sun came up (I think it was 4 or 5 am) and hiked all day. It took 7 hours to reach the summit and 5 to get back.
The mental challenge reared its ugly head about 2/3 of the way in at a place called Chicken Out Ridge. This is the point where most people turn back. It ended up being much more technically challenging than I had expected, and I was again grateful for my more experienced travel companions. Chicken Out Ridge is a narrow stretch of rock extending 500 feet, maybe more, with steep drop-offs on both sides. There is no way around, you must go up and over the ridge and confront the terror of mountaintop exposure at around 11,000 feet. Terrifying. And also amazing, awe inspiring, and life changing. But mostly terrifying. Luckily the group I was a part of had left early enough in the morning that we encountered this stretch before the afternoon traffic made the passage more difficult (the same could not be said about the way back.) At the very end of the Chicken Out Ridge stretch you drop down onto a year-round snow/ice field. It was a gorgeous sight.
At about 500 feet from the summit I started to experience altitude sickness (despite loading up on CoQ10 the weeks before and on the day of the climb. I do believe this helped curb some of the symptoms, however). I started to get very dizzy and was having a hard time breathing. I was literally crawling on all fours over loose shale, where each two steps forward resulted in one step sliding back. It was insanely harrowing. I saw many people along the sides of the “trail” fighting off nausea and unconsciousness, so I didn’t really feel too bad about things. Every 20 or 30 feet or so I would stop to rest and catch my breath.
Finally, near exhaustion, we reached the summit: 12,662 feet— the roof of Idaho!!! After some awesome photographic opportunities and lunch it was time to head back and, to my chagrin, back over Chicken Out Ridge. In some ways, the trip down was more difficult than the way up. At one point I slipped on loose rock and twisted my knee and banged up my ankle. The last hour or so down the mtn. I literally thought my legs were going to give way and I would just have to roll the rest of the way down. Luckily I had some good sturdy trekking poles to support my jelly legs and fading enthusiasm. One of the best parts of the journey, however, had to be coming around the corner to see our hiking group at base camp (not everyone climbed that day) with a hot meal ready and waiting. Absolutely priceless!