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High Pointer Attempt # 1 for 2017
June 26, 2017
Mountain: Mount Hood (Oregon)
Starting Point: Timberline Lodge
Total Miles: 6.4-8 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,387 (Only made it about 4,800 feet)
This was the first mountain on my list since I decided upon the quest to summit the highest point in all of the fifty states. The mountains I have already done in New York, Colorado, and New Mexico were ones I just happened to hike before I got this crazy idea stuck in my head. Being that I live in Oregon, Mt. Hood seemed like the obvious place to start. However, out of the list of fifty, Mt. Hood is in the top 3-5 in terms of difficulty. Unlike most of the other mountains, Mt. Hood is a glacier and requires some technical skills and equipment. Most people, myself included, start this hike at midnight with nothing but a headlamp guiding them up the excruciating slopes of Mount Hood for 5,387 feet of elevation gain in less than 4 miles. Regardless, it is one of the fifty high points, so difficult or not, I'm doing it!
Some people have died while attempting Mount Hood. Most of these deaths occurred because people underestimate the mountain. On a clear, good weathered day, Mount Hood is not that hard in comparison to other glaciated peaks, this is of course if you have the proper gear (ice axe, headlamp, helmet, crampons, etc) and a lot of grit and determination. However, like any high mountain, the weather is subject to change drastically and if you aren’t willing to suck up your ego and call it quits, you can get yourself into a lot of trouble, or even killed for that matter. With poor visibility, many people go off course, which can lead to a multitude of problems, getting lost, falling into a crevasse, falling off a cornice or a cliff, etc. Thankfully, I have already attempted this peak once in the past and had the good mindset to turn around when conditions proved to not be favorable.
For the week leading up to the trip, I was constantly checking the conditions on the mountain. June 23, 2017 seemed like the perfect day. The wind at the summit was projected to be between 5-10 miles per hour and the sky was expected to be clear as ever. A few hours before I left for my summit attempt, I went to my usual support group at the eating disorder treatment center where I was a client in the past. During the group, the counselor leading it shared a graph depicting the ebb and flow of recovery. As much as everyone would like to believe that it is a solid upward ascent from an eating disorder to recovery, it is nothing like that. Rather, it is a roller coaster ride of drastic ups and downs with hopefully some stable periods in between. It kind of reminds me of the elevation change graphs created for hikes and mountain climbs. Every time you think you are nearing the top and are about to collapse with exhaustion, you realize that it is a false summit, and that you have a col (or dip in elevation) to go down before having to go even further up. This is the reality of mountain climbing and unfortunately the reality of recovery as well.
Here is the other reality…sometimes you can put an immense amount of effort into something, for example, recovery or climbing a mountain, and not reach the end goal. However, it is important to realize that this does not mean the goal will never be met. This is what I had to remind myself after my second failed attempt of Mt. Hood and what I will continue to remind myself throughout my non-linear process of recovery. There are some days where I am not feeling 100% sold on recovery and it is difficult to get through the day without acting on an eating disordered thought. There are also some days where I don’t feel 100% physically and am pretty sure I am not going to be successful in reaching the summit of a mountain. My second attempt of Hood was one of those days.
The first time I failed was due to poor weather. In fact, it would have been down right ignorant of my climbing partner and I to continue when head sized ice chunks were flying down the climbing route. This time however, the weather was perfect. The only thing that stopped me was a nagging pain in my gut and a line of people I knew I would have to wait behind. I also had a good little bird in my head, which told me the following: “You feel like shit. You are on this beautiful mountain, there is a line of people and continuing will just take away from the beauty around you. You don’t have to conquer this mountain right now…if ever. You live in Oregon. You can climb Mt. Hood again next year when you are feeling better and hopefully don’t have to do it alone. Take off your pack, explore this area, take some pics, rest, enjoy the view and head back down before your stomach gets worse while you are stuck behind a line of people.”
It was hard not to listen to the other voice in my head, which was telling me that if I fail the first mountain that I attempt this year, that I will never meet my goal and I may as well not even try anymore. But, somehow I managed not to listen to that voice. I have a permit to climb Mount Whitney in five days and I refuse to throw in the towel before exploring that absolutely breathtaking area. Besides, it doesn't matter whether or not I reach the summit, it only matters that I am out there exploring the world, visiting friends and family along the way, surrounding myself with beauty and fulfilling my sense of adventure. In the long run, all that matters is that I am living a life that is congruent with my morals and values. Attempting to climb a mountain, failing, getting pissed at myself or continuing to try although I feel like shit just so I can prove something to myself and others has nothing to do with my values. Overall, I am happy I spent eight hours on a mountain with other adventures while gazing at shooting stars, mountain shadows, snow covered peaks and crystal colored crevasses.
Food: As promised, I said I would enjoy some local fare after each summit attempt. Being that my stomach was so messed up during and after this hike, I just went home and passed out. I figured this was acceptable given that I have eaten local fare in Oregon on countless occasions. Eventually I woke up to go to an appointment and afterwards was still too tired to show myself in public for some local fare. Therefore, I did what any tired and hungry person should do…I bought a frozen pizza, added some mushrooms and extra cheese to it, cooked it up and ate that shit! Then…I passed the fuck back out!