Thursday, December 30, 2010

Making Memories


I'm a big fan of making memories. In fact, for a birthday present I'd much rather make a memory doing or visiting something unique or cool than receiving a gift wrapped present.

One of my many memories is my attempt to climb Mt. Whitney. I was working at the newspaper and 26 coworkers and significant others (Jerry didn't want to climb so he stayed home with the boys) decided we wanted to climb Mt. Whitney. Towering at 14,505 feet, this beast of a mountain is scary to look as it is to climb.


We started climbing in the pitch dark at 4:30 in the morning. We were advised no matter where we were at 2:30 in the afternoon to turn around and start back to base camp. This was in June--warm weather abounded except for the top of Mt. Whitney. There, snow covered the rocks and it was icy cold. You carried your only drinking water and food. We weren't staying the night. Climb up as far as you could and climb down in one day.

What memories I have of that day. I learned even though I lived for many years in Reno at 4,500 feet and could handle hiking--I couldn't handle the high altitude sickness that hit me. I found a hiking buddy in Robert. He had a bad knee, but a wonderful attitude. Me, I could only walk six feet of the infamous switchbacks without stopping to catch my breath. It wasn't an in-shape/out-of-shape situation--I just couldn't breathe normally. I've never gone through something like that before and haven't since that day.

Practically everyone passed us up that day. We wound up being the second to last pair of hikers. Even though we knew we probably weren't going to reach the summit in the time allowed, we kept on trying. We kept up a running commentary of nothing and everything. At the height we were at the weather was still beautiful. Clear blue skies and cool without being cold. We stopped and took photos, ate crackers, drank our water whether we needed it or not. (We were told to do that because if you drank only when you were thirsty, it was already too late for you).

We reached a little over the 5,000 foot level when 2:30 pm arrived and we turned around and started back down the hill. It was tons easier momentum wise going downhill, but man, the impact on the legs and hips was worse. Somehow we laughed, moaned and thrilled in the journey. It didn't matter that we didn't reach the top. We had a great day, made new friends and did something we never knew we could--climb Mt. Whitney.

Back at base camp we learned that only a handful of our group actually made it to the summit. It was windy, cold and they didn't linger for long. Robert and I missed the snow covered field at the upper base camp. It might have been nice to get there (we weren't that far away from it when we turned around). But we were told again and again that you didn't want to be caught up on that mountain when night fell--the weather could change quickly and hypothermia could set in.

By dinner, my body was reacting to the exercise. My muscles began locking up. By the time I crashed in bed I had bummed some medicine from my roommate so I could try to find sleep through my pain. The next morning, as we loaded up to head home, found a very sore group of people packing up. All of the pain was worth it. I can close my eyes and still see the view from the mountain, feel the warm sun on my arms and hear the sounds of the birds chattering away.


I love making memories.