Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When to go back down the mountain

Every summer my family climbs a mountain. Why you might ask? Well that’s what I said when my husband suggested the tradition. “It’ll be good for us,” he said. I belligerently accepted his challenge and we began. After a couple of mountains, I came to the conclusion that my husband is brilliant, which is kind of hard to admit. Not only do we get some bonding time and we get to challenge ourselves. Now the kids have something to put down when they’re asked at school what traditions does your family have?

This year we chose Forget Me Not Mountain, which is only a 30-minute drive from our house. My brother in law, along with his two daughters joined us. He had climbed the mountain before and suggested that we could cut off 2 km each way if we traversed the river. So we packed our sandals and stepped into the cold, fast moving water. My brother in law carried both his kids across. My husband carried our daughter and I was lucky to get across without falling in.

We cached our sandals, thinking we wouldn’t need them again and continued on. To our surprise we came over the rise and saw a number of small creeks that we had to cross. Some we could step on dry stones to get over and there was one where we had to balance on a dead branch.

Finally we got to the trail and began the hike towards our destination: our seventh summit.

The trail was flat at first and we had to watch where we stepped due to the fact that we shared the trail with horses. After ten minutes it veered to the right and we started our climb upwards. It was okay at first, but then as the guidebook said we began an unrelenting climb at a 30% grade on loose shale. My brother in law pushed his kids up and my hubby carried our daughter part of the way. When we got past what seemed like the hardest part we took a rest and gauged our progress.

We had come quite a ways in a short time. The view was amazing.

We continued the trek up and criss crossed our way up through the rocky terrain. On the south side of the mountain the sun was shining, we were all sweaty and wondering when the steepness would end. When we came up over the ridge the sky turned. Clouds, which weren’t in the forecast, began to streak across the sky. Within minutes they covered the summit. We could no longer see our final destination.

We thought about hunkering down and waiting for the clouds to pass, but we were not prepared. I had forgotten windbreakers and had only stuffed a scarf and a pillowcase into my bag just in case. Well, we were now in a just in case scenario. I pulled out the scarf and wrapped it around my daughter, and my other son put his hands in the pillowcase. We trudge along for a while, but soon a bad feeling began to develop. Even though we were very close to the top, the wind was blowing hard and the temperature was dropping fast. It was not worth risking hyperthermia. I called my husband and we decided to head back down.There is suppose to be a mountain behind us.

This had happened to us before. A couple of years ago on a mountain near Canmore, we were so close to the top I felt like we could almost touch it. It would have taken us 15 minutes to reach the summit, but it would have taken us 15 minutes to come down and 30 minutes would have meant we would have been walking down in the dark.

So for the second time in our tradition we turned around right when we were near the summit and failed to complete the mountain. We took our time coming down as it was steep and had lots of loose rock. When we got to the river we looked back up and everything was covered in cloud. We traversed the now colder river and went back to our vehicles to warm up. We drove home cold, tired, hungry, and a little dejected because it meant we would have to try again on another day. We would have to start at the beginning all over again. We’ve already decided to try and climb the mountain in Canmore instead. Hopefully we’ll conquer that one this year.

I was going to relate this experience to writing and how you need to keep trying even if you have to turn around and start at the beginning, but I’m too tired to write any more. I’ll let you guys come up with some of your own analogies.


Heidi Willis said...

When you can't go forward anymore.

JKB said...

I'm sure I'll think of something appropriately deep but right now, my brain is foggy.

So I'll say that I'm all jealous of you and your great climb, and leave it at that.


Lazy Writer said...

What a wonderful family tradition! I've got all kids of great analogies going through my head.

Patti said...

Heidi: It was definitely hard to go forward in the fog.

JKB: I know all about brain being foggy.

Susan: I was reluctant at first, but I have to attempt I quite like the tradition now.

strugglingwriter said...

Yeah, that's a great tradition. You guys will get that mountain next time.

Patti said...

SW: We were going to try tomorrow, but my son has to go mow lawns so it will have to wait for a couple of more weeks.

Mim said...

That's an awesome tradition. We might try it when my little ones are a bit older. There are lots of great writing analogies, but I think the best part of your story was your family being together.

Patti said...

Mim: That's what I like best about it as well.

Jessie Oliveros said...

What a great tradition, but so sad you didn't make it to the top. You have a great attitude-another mountain, another day. You didn't give up on climbing a mountain, even if it wasn't THAT mountain. (Analogy-Don't invest too much in one book. If it doesn't work, there will be another book another day.)

jenniferneri said...

I was thinking about my own kids and us and doing this while I was reading. I think we are just all to lazy!! lol. We did do Mont Tremblant this summer, but there wasn't much climbing involved :)

I also like that you leave the analogy open, so many different interpretations. I was thinking the try try again one. And also, hmm, is it time to shelve that novel??

Thanks for the fun photos.

Cochrane Rangers Soccer Club said...

Jessie: We're going to try on Monday to climb the one we couldn't finish a few years ago. I was thinking an analogy could be shelving an idea.

Jennifer: I think try try again is how I've approached my current novel. I'm just hoping I'm not wasting my time trying to climb the same mountain.

candicekennington said...

I think you're teaching your children valuable lessons about setting goals, but also about responsibility, safety, and making good choices. What a wonderful tradition. I imagine it provides many 'teaching moment' opportunities.

Kasie West said...

LOL What a good story and great tradition. I think sometimes our goal feels so close that we can taste it, but we definitely need to follow our instincts and take a step back when we need to.

Patti said...

Candice; it does present teaching moments, but we just hope to make it up and down the mountain.

Kasie: Following our instincts is definitely something we need in life and writing.