I had a grand plan in the works for last Friday night.
Mel was getting off work for the season (the best feeling in the world after a trying forest fire season— I can attest to it) and I was awaiting her arrival in the Dan’s parking lot in Millcreek. For days I had been planning an evening ascent of the west slabs of Mt. Olympus; headlamps, cold rock and all. It seemed like a way to bump up the excitement level of 10 pitches of 5.5, to take a simple climb to the next level by ticking it off in the dark. It was going to be noteworthy, for certain. Good blogging material, in the very least.
But as I sat there waiting, staring up at the slabs, then trying my best to get a good eye on the descent, one that is notorious for being a pain in the rear and down a loose gully, I started to get a little worried. Was this just kinda dumb? It wasn’t the climbing that worried me, it was the walk-off, and the possibility of a ridiculously long night. I called my friend, Dan, for advice, who insisted taking a rope up the climb was a waste of time anyway, and he proceeded to talk me out of it. He explained that pitching it out would take forever, and the walk-off could take a long while not knowing where exactly we’re going. Just do it during the day first, he said. You’ll be better off. I knew he was right, and I called him, in part, to have my exact thoughts echoed; yet, I was still disappointed.
You see, when us type-A folks get our minds set on a goal we’ve been thinking about for awhile, it gets really annoying when we have to put that plan aside. And the fact that it was my own decision (sense of prudence, more likely) that was getting in the way of that goal annoyed me even more. Enter in the self-doubt. When Mel showed up, I was in the middle of a silent fight with myself. You never do what you want to really do, Laura. Why are you so afraid all the time? Should just go for it and stop being such a puss. Why are you crushing your own dreams?
“Ugh, Mel. I think we should just go on a night hike or something.” I explained my rationale in a wallowing tone. She was totally fine with it, and didn’t seem dashed or dismayed in the slightest. We headed into Dan’s so I could buy some consolation chocolate and headed to the trail head of Grandeur Peak, leaving the rack and rope behind in the trunk of my car.
As we put one leg in front of the other on the well-traveled path, the light began to fade. We hiked for as long as we could in the dim evening grey until we had to pull out headlamps. I began to fear mountain lions, as I always do at night in the mountains. I began to feel refreshed, excited even. As we peered out behind us, the lights in the Salt Lake valley took on a greater contrast to the night. It was simply gorgeous.
Even though hiking up a mountain at night on a trail didn’t seem like an epic journey, it was still something worth doing. Like climbing the Thumb in Little Cottonwood Canyon with my friend Dan, ascending 2 Bridger Jack towers in a day with my boyfriend, going on a mellow backcountry tour in freshly fallen snow, or a trail run on the Bonneville Shoreline in the springtime, this hike, too, was awakening my soul.
Even if we have huge ambitions, some days you have to appreciate the beauty in a more simple approach to things. If you’re grateful for being outside, for your health, for the mountains around you, I believe life will continue to give you blessings. I am reminded of an article I read by Brendan of Semi-Rad.com, The Definition of Adventure, which really hits home with me in moments like these. Brendan states,
“…a friend asked on Facebook, “Has the word “adventure” become cliché?” And I thought about that, and yes, Yvon Choiunard says it’s overused, and plenty of people agree with him. And I thought about all the e-mails in my inbox from friends or acquaintances who have climbed The Nose in a day, soloed remote big walls in faraway countries, and gone on proper “expeditions,” where they get dropped off on glaciers for weeks at a time so they can climb or ski mountains nearby, and how I may never get on something worthy of National Geographic, or a Goal Zero sponsorship. Sometimes I wonder if I waste too much time comparing my own adventures to those of my friends or peers, in that ridiculous way someone compares their lawn to their neighbors’ lawn, or their new car to their co-worker’s car.
Then I remember that I grew up in a small town in Iowa in the 1990s, and not so long ago, my definition of “adventure” was going to a bar in a different state to get shitfaced. So that’s a little perspective.”
On the summit of Grandeur, Mel and I broke out some music and busted out a little victory dance. “Nobody in Salt Lake City will look up at Grandeur peak tonight and know there are two girls up here dancing to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off!” I said. Mel continued to shake her hips, hands up in the air. We weren’t on the north summit of Olympus, but I still felt pretty darn good.
Yesterday I finally got the opportunity to climb the west slabs of Mt. Olympus during the day. My friend, Mitzi, and I free-soloed all 10 pitches, and spent 5 hours gaining the north summit, down-climbing, bushwacking through dried-up gamble oak and some prickly crap, soloing back up to the south summit, and then hiked down the trail back to one of our cars. It was far more of an epic than the hike up Grandeur peak, but after all was said and done I was actually with the exact same feeling I had when Mel and I stood on the summit of Grandeur the other night.
Which is to say, I felt thankful for being alive and outside with a friend.
Laura Stade. Biking, cooking, Wasatch mountain wandering. Writing about the mix of all of it at The Kitchen and The Bicycle.