What draws certain people to seek adventure, to try new things, to learn a new skill, to challenge their abilities, to push beyond their limits?
Well, I am that kinda of person, a daring soul to experience what life has to offer to the fullest, to dig deep within myself to know what truly moves me, to discover the unknown, to walk off the beaten path; for its those moments in which I have done self reflection and self discovery.
This journey began at age 22, after the passing of my mom from breast cancer at 45 years young. I realized life is too short to simply exist. I live by the motto: Live Love Life!
In 2011; My friend Arturo Codina had posted pictures of the Grand Canyon on his Facebook I sent him an email, saying "I want in next time!" A year later with no camping or hiking experience, I joined a weeks adventure, which turned into a life changing experience. Ever since then we have managed to make a yearly adventure, from hiking in the Grand Canyon and Rappelling in Zion. This year 6 of us new and old buddies reunited and planned a mountaineering trip to The Grand Tetons at 13,775ft in Wyoming. After a year of talking, planning and prepping, the day was here. We hiked and camped one night out at Surprise Lake at 9,580 to acclimate to altitude and took 2 days of skill work with Exum Climbing School learning how to belay each other, rappel, tie figure eight and bowline knots and how to stay safe on the mountain. Little did I know that there is not enough prepping for the discovery of self.
We hiked about 7 miles gaining over 5,000 vertical feet to the saddle, which snuggled between the Middle and Grand Teton. The terrain trekked covered smooth dirt trail alongside trees and meadows and natural springs, to rocky gradual incline switchbacks, to open mountain views of 50 shades of granite, a maze-like of oversized boulder fields to climb, up through glacial moraine, to the last stretch of very steep rocky dirt trail leading to the alpine saddle at 11,600ft . You dismiss your perception of what a mile means, when you begin to hike all these varied uphill terrain. Our resort suite accommodations consisted of sharing a 15x15 tarp with 14 other people. My friend Bianca and I were the only 2 girls on this expedition and well that is quite empowering to size up to an adventure mostly dominated by men. Winds blew at 50+mph with a front row view of the sunset painting the skies bright orange and red, leaving only the outlines of the mountains to see. Once the sun left, pitch darkness was born, not a city light or the sounds of cars can be heard, but just the whistling of the winds as I snuggled caterpillar style in my sleeping bag.
3am wake up call: gathered our headlamp, climbing gear and packs. Blasting winds and pitch darkness was what I was greeted with the minute I stepped out of hut and began to scramble up rock. As a yoga teacher we learn so much about our breath and taking the conscious effort to execute something so innate seemed so demanding, for every step I took my breath seemed to dissipate into thin air. I was just starting and I was struggling. I kept telling myself "slow and steady wins the race." I could only see a foot in front of me with my headlamp, I had no clue what I was climbing, no perception of height or depth, except that each step consisted of a steeper scramble requiring me to use all four limbs to climb over rocks. It seemed to just get steeper and rocks seemed to grow in size right before my eyes. We took 17 pitches to reach the summit, via the Upper Exum Ridge, a North American classic. We belayed each other one at a time, entrusting one anothers life by a rope and a figure eight knot over ledges of thousands of feet to death, We all struggled our own demise, whether it was the battle of our breathe vs lack of oxygen, fear of heights, lack of trust, or physical pain, but the mental scrutiny endured out beats any physical demand encountered. It is that moment of wanting to give up, second guessing my abilities, hitting "the wall" that I crave the most.
It is being witness to your own grip strength holding your body weight, noticing the power of the big toe as it balances alone on a foot hold smaller then your foot. My thoughts moved at the speed of light, one's mind will try to break you before your body gives up. The exposure of granite standing sturdy for over millions of years, gives you fortitude to push beyond your limits. Giving up is not an option in a scene as such, we have to dig so deep, deeper then what we are capable of imagining. That depth is what living is, not just existing. It is like taking your first breath into this world. I remember sitting atop the summit and saying "this is it! We are here?", in disbelief. The 360 degree panoramic views seemed like a blur to me. Our time was limited, because we needed to begin our descent. We reached our destination, but the journey was not over. On our descent we were greeted with rain and hail, watching my step to avoid a slip, fall or twisted ankle on a slick rock. Cold hands grasped my hiking poles with every breathe and movement I built internal heat, avoiding any stops. I looked at the horizon and thanked God for the weather at that time, for just a few hours ago, it could have stopped us from summiting or making the climb off the peak that more dangerous and frightful. It was miserable being cold and wet, but a blessing at the same time. I focused my breath and mind on beating the sunset to the trailhead. After 18 hours we had officially completed our summit!
It is not until, I am back home living my routine life, that I begin to digest, process and reflect my adventure. looking back at pictures, I can feel every physical sensation, but just as my body soreness recovers, my bruises melt away from my skin and my toe nails begin to regrow, it is my awareness that awakens. This euphoric feeling fills my inner soul, I feel accomplished, I feel blessed, I feel alive. The summit of The Grand Tetons , not only tested my physical endurance, but it tapped into my conscious. It reminded me that there is nothing I can not attain. I value the resilience of my body, the beating of my heart, and the power of my breath. Mountains are a reflection of our souls, strong yet humble, to see the views, you must be willing to surpass the difficult terrain or weather encountered to begin to understand your highest self.
This adventure could have not been done alone and I am very grateful to have shared this journey with some amazing souls and trusting friendships. Thank you Arturo Codina, Jonathon Diego, Bianca Alvarez, Renz Castle, Sean Regan and our two amazing guides Brian Campbell and Scotty McGee.