This I Believe

Peter - stow, Massachusetts
Entered on May 15, 2007

This I Believe

A couple of years ago my parents decided to take me on a trip through part of the north western portion of the US to explore places like Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. St Helens. At Mt Rainier we stayed at a hotel completely made out of logs and wood that was located at the base camp to the dormant volcano. The table, chairs, beds, plates, forks, knives, and spoons were all made out of wood, and the hotel is the only one of its kind. The reason we wanted to stay there was because we all wanted to go hiking up the mountain/volcano for our first high elevation hike as a family. The base camp was 4,600 feet above sea level and the air was very thin for our standards even at that level. The highest achievable point on this mountain in one day is camp Muir at 10,050 feet above sea level and almost always requires cramp-ons and ice picks to get to. My family and I hiked up most of the way, up until about 8,00 feet when the rest of my family quit because it was too hard due to the lack of oxygen. At that point it was my first real experience at an elevation that high, you are way above the clouds and can see airplanes so close that you almost see the faces on the passengers as they look out the window. All I wanted to do at that point was to climb as high as I possibly could until I could climb no higher. After the first thousand feet I stopped on a rock outcropping thinking it was a safe place to stay despite the fact that it was broken up into small rocks. When I got to the top of this outcropping I realized I was on the edge of a 800 foot drop and the pile of rocks I was on could give way at any moment. Just like the rest of the landslides I saw on the way up. I noticed how the mountain was changing little by little in small steps at a time and decided that I should take advice from the mountain in order to climb it. At that point I was dead tired and could barely move but knew that if I didn’t I could very easily die at any moment and have the scariest ride ever. The only problem was that the nearest sanctuary was at least 2,500 feet away and at that elevation 95% of climbers need oxygen, crampons, and ice picks and all I had was shorts, boots, and a backpack filled with water. Hiking at this elevation is very difficult and even the most athletic person can’t climb more than 30 feet without having to stop. At this point I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it in one push so I took the advice given to me by the mountain and broke it down in small steps. After every ten paces I would stop for ten seconds and then move ten more paces. I made it to the top and remember looking out at the other mountain tops piercing the cloud line way below. It was the most difficult exercise I have ever done and since then, I believe that even for the most difficult situations, one step at a time is not that difficult. If every hard task was broken down into steps like mine then there would be no difficult problems for me to face and stress (just like the stress of the rocks on the mountain side) would be no more.