Remembering what the guides told me, I did my best to control my trembling hands. My life depended on confident steps and a firm grip. There were no ropes or harnesses. Thousands of miles from home, terrified, we climbed up a vertical wall of snow on the side of a mountain. One wrong step and I’d plummet to my death.
A line of people followed behind me and if I stopped, I’d hold everyone up. Don’t look down. I did. Had we really climbed that far in one day?
“Okay, let’s play a game. 20 questions?” I need something to get our minds off of where we are and what we are doing. Then, it hit me. We have to keep going. Left foot. Right foot. Ice ax. Left foot. Right foot. Ice ax.
Above the tree line, I looked around amazed at the beauty. The vibrant sun set behind the mountains.
I’d never been exposed to anything so surreal or so pure.
I snap back to reality. The sun is setting. It’s going to be dark soon. How much further? I hear the sobs from my friends behind me.
“Alright,” I say. “I’m thinking of a person.” We continue to climb, and with each step, I feel my legs growing weaker. But I don’t let it stop me from moving. I can’t.
My hands are cold but I gave my gloves to someone who needed a better pair. They’ll be numb soon enough. My backpack grew heavier the higher we climbed and my sholders ached with pain.
Tess begins to panic.
“Go in front of me. You’ll be closer to Kim,” I say. She doesn’t need to say anything.
Coming over a peak, I see rock slabs. Those look like the rocks we camped on last night. Disappointment fills us as we discover that those slabs are only the back-up campsite – the site we’d use if we couldn’t reach our real one in time. We need to make a group decision whether to continue to the planned campsite in the dark, or stay here for the night. The guides decide the best thing for us is to camp here. We’re done.
Having to go a little further the next morning doesn’t bother me. I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished.
For the first time in my life I was pushed beyond my breaking point. There was no going to my parents for help, and no walking away. My strength had to come from within. I would’ve given anything to be home with my family. But I decided to go on that trip for a reason. Maybe I felt I had something to prove to people. Maybe I did it because my friends were doing it. But actually, I did it for me. Confident in myself, knowing that no matter how difficult it was, I’d push through.
We wake up early on day four. There’s time to make up. Confidence overcomes me after yesterday’s struggle. Awaiting the next challenge, I’m eager to begin. Taking in everything around me, I’m no longer scared to look down. And then I ask another question: “Have you guys ever heard of the alphabet game?”
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