2018 Highpointing Reflections
We’ve been saying this for years, but our sign at Fort Reno, DC’s Highpoint, is ALMOST HERE! We have a near final design. Next steps are fabrication and installation with hopefully a dedication ceremony, which we’ll publicize.
Otherwise, another successful climbing season in the books with still more ahead.
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot’s quote kept me company this climbing season. This year was without a doubt the farthest I had ever pushed myself. It was a year of testing boundaries and discovering how much I was capable of overcoming and accomplishing.
Boundary Peak: Attempt #2 on Nevada kicked off the season. Soul crushing only begins to describe the experience, but in retrospect, this was a training day for the two tough mountains ahead. The scar remaining on my knee serves as a daily reminder of the difficult terrain and sheer determination required to reach this summit, a mountain war wound.
Wyoming’s Gannett Peak took every ounce of physical energy and mental drive I could muster. Seriously – Every. Single. Ounce. At the end of Day 1, I wondered how I could possibly make it another four days. The magic ticket to standing on the highest point of Wyoming was to take it one day at a time. Aside from the exertion, we spent five days covered in sweat, dirt, bug spray, and sunscreen. I have never been so dirty in my life as to need a shower almost immediately after my first shower back in civilization. The amount of dirt that spilled off of my body turned the entire bathroom an astonishingly pure black. Since Gannett, my appreciation for a constant source of drinking water, flushing toilets, and running faucets still has yet to cease.
Simply showing up for Montana’s Granite Peak felt worthy of a confetti drop celebration. Much like being offered the very food that just caused you food poisoning, returning to the mountains so soon on the heels of Gannett repulsed me. But, I began to rationalize – I’d already paid for the flights, so maybe I would just fly out and look at the mountain. That morphed into: maybe I’ll just do the first two days and sit out summit day if I wasn’t feeling it. After day 2, when I could see and practically touch the summit, of course I went for it. I knew I would; I just needed baby steps to get there.
Montana changed me. Pushing past my fear of rock climbing, I spent six of the twelve+ hours on summit day clinging to a rock face, relying on my team, and willing the cams to hold in place. Plus, it was freaking cold. Where I dripped sweat on Gannett, I shivered whenever I was not moving on Granite. I feel tougher and pretty badass for having bagged Granite, my toughest overall mountain yet. And, gosh the goats were awesome. They made the experience truly memorable.
2019 will bring me full circle. Mt. Rainier was my first attempt at a highpoint before this was any inkling of an articulated goal. Though what should have been #1 was a failed summit attempt, this mountain will hopefully become a successful #48. Friends who have climbed at least one other highpoint with me are coming together for this meaningful and (hopefully) celebratory climb. I can’t think of a better way to end my journey of the lower 48 than the very place it began.
May the mountain gods continue to smile upon us as we round out the adventure. And, may we all continue to discover just how far we can go.
2018 was a year of surprises for me. If I could go back in time to late 2017 and tell myself everything that would happen in the next year I would have never believed it. It started with a severe case of the flu that turned to pneumonia, and later asthmatic bronchitis. By spring I had severely diminished lung capacity, and couldn’t go anywhere without my two inhalers. I’m happy to say that by the end of the summer I was somewhat back to normal, but definitely not in the climbing shape I had been in when I started the year. Still I managed to start (slowly) running again, and even bagged Woodall Mountain on a trip along the Natchez Trace in August.
In 2019 I want to start seriously hiking again, and am hoping to hike Mt. Washington in July with my family. More National Parks trips are also in the works, including a much anticipated trip to the Everglades. Whatever happens I start the year grateful for my health, and with a new appreciation of what it means to be able to depend on my own two feet to take me somewhere.