As I stood there frozen, raindrops collected on the brim of my hood. I would look down at my hiking boots and then I would try to assess my next leap to the next slanted boulder that was wet and slippery. I retightened the straps to my backpack though I couldn’t get it any tighter; regretting I packed my full tripod, SLR camera along with many other accessories.
I was so excited to be hiking in the Enchantments because it was the evening of the Supermoon. I was to camp there alone for my first time without my adventure partner, Asia. She’s my six year old Weimaraner. I carried all my camera gear to take long exposure images of the night sky and practice time lapse. I was hoping to score a Milky Way image in what I think is one of the most magical places in the Pacific Northwest. The problem was, there wasn’t a star to be seen, just clouds and constant rain. The weight on my back was now just bricks instead of the tools for my creativity.
In my peripheral vision I could see a couple of people heading my way. One of those people was hopping from one boulder to the other with such ease and finesse like a gazelle in his native territory. By the time he reached me I’m was still standing on the same boulder, overthinking and contemplating my next move. I said hello under all my rain gear while looking down to keep dry. He said hello back and I immediately recognize his voice. It’s Chad. THE Chad Kellogg. When you’re by yourself stuck on a boulder due to a physical or mental block the voice you want to hear is Chad’s. The mountaineer of all mountaineers. We briefly made small talk and I asked him about his return from Everest. He said “I feel inspired”. He and his friend then hopped along and as he completed his last boulder he turned around and noticed I wasn’t following. I felt a bit uncomfortable, perhaps embarrassed that I questioned my safety and stability with an overweighted pack. I yelled out “I’m just a little cautious when I’m by myself”. He said “that’s okay, you should be”. I asked a favor of him… if he would help me with my pack so I can navigate off the boulders. Without hesitation and in no time at all he was back helping me remove my pack. With relief I hopped off the last boulder where he stood holding my pack. I thanked him for his help while he helped me reapply my pack . As he and his friend gained distance ahead of me I heard him yell back “you okay Gloria?” I replied “you bet, thanks Chad!”.
Though I didn’t get my Supermoon that evening I did see my Superman.
We’ll miss you Chad and the inspiration you brought to me and so many others. Your passion for the mountains was infectious and I will always admire your drive, stamina and humbleness. Climb on.
I woke up at 5:00 a.m. in the back of my truck since I didn’t actually make it to the Helens area until midnight. It was dark, I was tired and it was way too late for me to attempt pitching my tent. I was just fine blowing up my sleeping pad and crawling into my cozy sleeping bag. The only thing I missed was my dog Asia.
I actually ended up doing this climb solo. It wasn’t my initial plan but my plans to go with friends fell through. I had asked a friend who had summited a couple of weeks prior if it would be wise to go by myself. She said it would be. They allow only 100 people a day to climb pass the 4800 ft. level and if I were to get hurt, someone would spot me. That’s all I needed to hear.
On the way to the trailhead I saw the most incredible sunrise! Since I’m a night owl, I don’t get to witness very many of them. Sunsets are a different story.
The first 2 miles were a typical hike in the woods. Once above the tree line it was a couple of miles of climbing large boulders. The whole way Mt. Adams to the right would wink at you to motivate you to keep going. Then the last mile was slippery ash. It is true when they say “two steps forward, one step back”. At least for the month of August.
I started at the trailhead at 7:45 a.m. and didn’t finish until 4:45 p.m.
Finally reaching the summit, the view will take your breathe away. It’s not every day you get to look in the crater of a volcano. I loved the strength of the wind and the subtlety of the earthy tones Helen’s has. Rust, coppers with varieties of grey that any color scale would be envious of. I pulled my hair out of my pony tail and took off my hat to really feel the wind and closed my eyes. I could feel the grit and ash on my skin and in my hair. It was my favorite part.
Mt. Adams winking
I decided to sign up with American Alpine Institute for a skills and summit course at Mt. Baker. I trained 5 to 6 days a week for four months solid; strength training, intervals, core exercises and hiking at least three times a week. A couple of smaller hikes after running the dogs in the Snoqualmie region and then I would make sure to do a 7 to 9 mile steeper hike on the weekends. Interesting enough, I really enjoyed the training. Feeling strong and surrounding myself around nature while doing it is quite enjoyable.
When it was time to go last weekend I felt as ready as I could be physically. I knew it would also be a challenge mentally but I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it really was. This trip pulled out fears that were hidden down inside. It challenged my confidence and if I really was willing to take that next step forward. Literally. After our first 1,000 ft. practice climb the day before we were suppose to summit, I psyched myself out so much that I was considering not going. At those crucial times, (you know, the make or break moments) Chad Cochran, our guide had this keen sense of knowing when I needed the encouragement and to rattle me out of my doubt. I kid you not, I don’t think this trip would have been as successful for me as it was if it wasn’t for him. I needed that extra push and seeing that he believed in me transformed into strength. I’m not big on believing in the devil with horns, dressed in red and standing in fire but I do think if anything can be called the devil it’s fear and doubt. It will stop you in your tracks of what you really want in life. If that’s not “the devil” than I don’t know what is.
We set out to start our climb at 2:00 a.m. in the morning with our head lamps on. We had a meteor shower showing off above us and most of my focus was looking down at my crampons highlighted by my headlamp. All I heard was crunch, crunch, axe, crunch crunch axe, repeat. After three hours of that, the sun decided to join us as it raised it’s glory over Mt. Baker dressed in orange, hues of yellow and pink.
About that time we were facing the Roman Wall which is much steeper once you actually get on it. I think I had to grunt to complete each step.
Once returning back to Hogsback base camp, I then finally felt my complete self again. The weight and the stress of getting up there was behind me and I only felt the accomplishment of succeeding at what I set out to do. I never felt better, relieved and proud.
After summiting a mountain that is just shy of 11,000 feet, I have all the admiration and respect for the true alpinists out there. They are truly fearless. Allow me to rephrase; maybe not fearless but courageous to face their fear.