To get to the Terminator peak on the mountain at Kicking Horse Resort, you have to take a "road" from the gondola landing over to the mountain peak. When I visited my sister four years ago, the man-made road had just been finished a week before. The shale was still a tad loose, and I found it hard to get my footing. The first part of the road is a very steep hill, and I don't do "down" very well. At the time, I got stuck. Mentally, and physically, STUCK. I was about halfway down the second bump in the road, when it was too overwhelming to continue. I was scared. I thought I was going to fall off the mountain. My knees and legs couldn't hold me, and I didn't want to walk. At all. I called to my sister, who was ahead of me at the time, to tell her I wanted to go back. Only, I wasn't sure I could do it. The tears came. She didn't push, she just let me turn around and climb back up, huffing and puffing the entire way. She wanted to see what the fuss was about, and walked a little further along the road while I hung out at the restaurant at the top of the mountain. It was devastating.
I came better prepared. Not only was I in better physical condition, I wore my knee braces and brought walking poles. My running shoes were not the old, dusty, hardly-used ones of four years ago, though I really need to invest in a good pair of hiking boots for this sort of thing. There was no way I was going to fail this twice.
And, yet, a few feet down that slope, the fear kicked back in. What the wha? How could the tears be right below the surface even still? I was surprised by the physical and emotional reaction, because it really didn't occur to me that this would be something I couldn't do. I just needed to do it to prove I could, to myself. It was slow going, and the mantra in my head was "you have to do this. YOU HAVE TO DO THIS." All the way down, picking my way through loose rocks, until I got to the flat-ish part where I could relax. I felt better once I passed the second slope, where I'd gotten stuck the last time, but the anxiety was still there. The rest of the route was up, but what goes up must come down, and I knew what I would be facing on the way back.
Once we got around Terminator 1, the road kept going behind the mountain to the next peak, with tougher slopes. Terminator 2. I think my sister assumed I'd just walk the road, and asked if I wanted to keep going, up towards the peak. I was hesitant, I hate to admit, but I agreed. At that point, the terrain changed. It was a mountain path, not a road, with no barriers or ledges on the sides. It was narrow. It was rocky. But steps had been built into the path to reinforce it, just in the last few weeks, and that made it a little better. So we kept going. It seemed to take forever! I could see the peak, and still it was always "just around the corner." We kept going. I was hot, sweaty, hungry and out of breath from the steep climb, and then all of a sudden it looked like we'd reached the edge of the world, where land meets sky. I couldn't see any more peak in front of me, I just saw cloud. We'd made it.
Ultimately, that's how I got there and back. Don't think about the whole thing, or it will be overwhelming. Just concentrate on the section you're in, get through, and move along.
Having tools helped, too. Gear is pretty important, as my sister and I talked about on the way up. I was saying how much easier it is when you have all your gear out and ready, the helmets, shoes, bikes, ropes, and so they can pick up after work and go mountain biking or hiking or rafting or climbing. It's all there, right in their backyard. She compared it to my going to the gym. At first, it felt like more of an ordeal to get ready, but now I just know what I need and I go. And I have learned what gear I need in order for it to be convenient to go to the Y. Gloves and sweat bands, hand towels, hair elastics, these things all live in my gym bag. I figured out fast that I needed an easy lock with a key, and a water bottle, and now I have my routines and it works. The gear is important, so I don't regret having to use the walking poles or the knee braces. What had initially felt like crutches were just part of the adventure, just as you wouldn't go on that 2.5 hr hike without water or appropriate clothing (given that the weather changed dramatically during that time. We went from snow flurries to sunshine to rain in a matter of hours).
So, I conquered my mountain. My sister admitted she didn't think I would do it. Not that I couldn't, but that she thought I might stop, turn back, and she was just letting me go for as long as I felt I could. Surprise! I kept on going all the way to the top. Way past the road which was the ultimate goal. Frankly, I didn't even know that the alpine path existed, or that T2 was a place that my sis hadn't hiked before. I'm not sure she's ski'd down it yet. I just wanted to reach a mountain peak. It's maybe not as impressive as summiting a mountain where you do all the work yourself - I mean, we took a gondola most of the way to the top and the path the rest of the way was well established.
But, for a brief moment, I was on top of the world.
Literally, and figuratively.