The moment I realized I would actually meet my goal of 365 days of sweat in 2013, I knew exactly how I wanted to celebrate.
I would return to Calico Tanks, at Red Rock Canyon, on the first day of 2014. This is the place where I kicked off My Year of Sweat on Jan 1, 2013.
I couldn’t have written a more perfect or poetic an ending to this journey had I tried.
Sadly, that beautifully scripted Hollywood ending was not to be.
We stayed in Toronto through the holidays + an additional two weeks.
This past Friday I returned to the scene of the crime. It was 16 days later than I had hoped, but I was determined to make it a magical experience, nonetheless.
And it was.
For the most part.
I had forgotten what a challenging hike this is. It’s probably one of the most mislabelled hikes, in my opinion, at a rating of Moderate.
True, it can be a moderate hike if you manage to find the easier scrambles to follow up to, and down from, the summit. The issue is that there about a million different ways you can hike this route. Some are moderate. Others are white-knuckle, faint-inducing.
We picked moderate routes for the first 3/4 of the way to summit.
While the scrambles were endless, with very little in the way of a “trail”, at least they were manageable. In fact, several spots had natural staircases to get us to higher elevations.
But then one wrong decision.
It seemed harmless at the time.
“Let’s take the high road”, said Mr. Enthusiasm.
It started out okay. The scrambles were more challenging, with lots of climbing and jumping, but manageable.
Challenging can be fun.
Until it becomes not so fun.
I found myself walking across a narrow lip on the side of the rock. When I say narrow, I mean it was barely wider than the width of one foot. I braced myself, by leaning back into the rock, and took this picture to give a sense of the angle and drop.
The black in the lower right of the picture is my bent right leg. I’m only around 15 feet above that puddle of water you see on the upper left of the picture, but the path is terrifying.
The crack you see to the left of my leg is the path I am talking about.
And it only got worse. Mr. Enthusiasm was a few feet ahead of me. I snapped a picture of him, to illustrate how narrow the “trail” was.
He is clowning around in this picture, hanging from the rock to show his “rock climbing skills”. The actual “trail” is 6 inches or so below his feet. Yes, that tiny, narrow, little groove in the side of the rock.
After snapping this pic, I tried to make my way over.
What you don’t see in this pic is what happens to the ‘trail’ between where I am and where he is. The reason you don’t see it is because it doesn’t exist.
Even that narrow little groove disappears. You are left to find toe holds where you can. And just hope for the best, I suppose.
I was paralyzed with fear.
He told me to turn my body around and face the mountain, shuffling along sideways, as he had done.
My issue was that I was frozen in my spot.
My fear was overwhelming.
Asking me to throw my back (left) leg over and across my body to put me in a position where I would be facing the mountain was tantamount to asking me to jump off a cliff. I felt I would most certainly die if I attempted that turn.
All I could see was the terrifying abyss below me. An abyss that felt much greater than 15-20 feet.
All I envisioned was my legs buckling, sending me flying over the edge, landing with a painful thud, on the rock floor below.
My legs are strong. Easily the strongest part of my body. My quads are rock hard. My calves, too.
My legs shouldn’t buckle. They probably wouldn’t buckle. They most likely would support me on this perilous ledge.
But I didn’t believe that they would.
I did something I rarely do. Something that is really hard for me.
I asked for help.
Come here. Help me. I need to reach for your arm, I pleaded. My voice loud, but shaking with fear.
He came over. But kept trying to convince me to turn around and face the mountain. He fired away with suggestions and recommendations. And he did it while laughing.
Laughing at me.
I was so angry I couldn’t see straight. It’s hard enough for me to admit my fear, to ask for help, to show my vulnerability. To have him laugh at any of those made my blood boil.
I made it through that horrifying spot on the ‘trail’ and, eventually, to the summit.
I was rewarded with a clear view of The Strip, across the vast expanse of desert.
I sat a suitable distance from the object of my rage, munching on my trail mix and tangerines, and trying to quiet my mind so that I could reflect on how much has changed for me in the one year (+16 days) since I last sat at this summit.
He knew I was pissed. And I know he felt badly for how he had made me feel.
He offered to snap a few pictures of me for the blog.
I didn’t say a word. I didn’t even turn to look at him. I simply reached behind, offering the camera.
I tried to let go of my anger. I know he didn’t intend to hurt me.
I stood and turned, ready to head back. Ready to let go of my anger.
I understood what he was trying to do.
He was trying to break the tension. He was trying to make me laugh. He was trying to tell me that I’m stronger than I think.
His delivery left a lot to be desired, but I do get that he thought he was helping by trying to make me understand that he believed in me, and that I could do it.
I also realized that the poetic ending I was hoping for didn’t not happen because I had missed the targeted Jan 1, 2014 hike date; rather, because this wasn’t an ending at all.
My journey is far from over.
This hike showed me that I have more growing to do. Not only in learning to break through some debilitating fears, but also in learning to better handle criticism, regardless how it is delivered.
I may have succeeded in getting thinner but, the truth is, my skin still needs to grow a little thicker.
[...and fade to black]