Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hiking to the top of my favorite mountain, Timpanogos. It's around an 8-hour round-trip hike and requires some serious stamina and stair-climbing skillz in some places. It's not a hike I recommend to people who just get the urge to go on a hike one day and think climbing a mountain would be a fun thing to do. While it is super fun (for me, at least!) and infinitely rewarding, you have to be prepared.
You have to take about 2 meals worth of food, as well as a lot of water (I'm talking several liters). You should take some toilet paper too, for answering nature's call out in the wilderness. You should probably take a jacket because it gets super windy at the summit and it can be chilly in the shade. You need to take excellent shoes because you will be hiking in them for at least 15 miles and (depending on the time of year) could be crossing several glaciers. You need to take a flashlight if you're starting your hike before dawn, and sunscreen for after the sun rises and when you are above the treeline. A first-aid kit, pain reliever, and hiking sticks are also good to consider.
With all that preparation, though, there is even more preparation that must take place days and even months ahead of time. You should hydrate yourself for at least the week leading up to the hike. Your shoes need to be broken in to avoid serious injuries. You should have taken several longer hikes in the months and weeks prior in order to get accustomed to the type of movement your body will be using and to adjust to the altitude change. Above all, you should study maps and learn from experienced hikers to better understand what to expect from the trail in terms of terrain and time.
This is not to say that it is impossible to hike without preparing (because any normal, healthy person can totally hike to the summit without serious repercussions), but you will be more exhausted, hangry, dizzy or nauseous with altitude sickness, and sore the following days. Every year, several people are airlifted from the mountain, and it is usually because they were poorly prepared.
That being said, the rewards are incredible. How many people have truly seen a sunrise from a mountain peak or watched the mist slowly dissolve from rows upon rows of mountains in the morning light? How many people have watched--in person--a pika building a nest out of twigs and leaves, or have born witness to a grouse strutting about unabashedly, or walked with mountain goats ambling along ridges and rock slides or seen a bull moose wading in a pond? How many people have actually walked through a meadow while a huge herd of deer runs by, or been so high up that even the soaring birds are flying beneath their view? How many people know what it feels like to have the hairs on your arms tingle while standing in the middle of gathering clouds, or know what it feels like to stand at the highest peak and then know how someone can feel so big and at the same time so small and proud and scared and thrilled...and how it can all be contained in a single human heart in a single moment.
Totally worth it, but it is a lot of work.
Recently, I've set a personal goal for myself that likewise requires a lot of preparation but that could potentially be just as rewarding. I knew well ahead of time that it was going to be a ton of work. It's a little arduous and can be discouraging but thus far the view is looking good, and I'm getting excited about reaching my goal. And who knows? Maybe once I'm at the top, I will see another peak in the distance that I'd love to climb. Or, maybe I'll feel inspired to climb it over and over again.
On our hike, we ran into that guy, who told us it was his 661st time reaching the summit, which is incredible! What an inspiration! Also, it could be a little intimidating to compare his 72 years of summit accruals to the handful of times I've been, but guess what? Every person's goals are different and I am at a different place in my life right now than he is. He told us one reason he continues to hike to the summit is to inspire other people. He said people can do hard things and that you're only as old as you think you are. True dat, guy. True dat.
Do you have a big goal that your are working towards or have already met? What is your mountain summit? What preparation went into it and what were the rewards?