I love three day weekends. It gives me a little extra time to do a slightly bigger adventure- something usually involving a road trip of sorts. So three days before the long Memorial Day weekend, I got it in my head to go do the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Clocking in at over 22 miles in length and over 10,000 feet of accumulated elevation gain, the “Presi Traverse” follows an alpine ridge line that summits the 7 of the highest peaks east of the Mississippi, including the mythic Mount Washington, home of the “world’s worst weather.”
I was lucky in that my partner for this scheme is fairly strong physically, but more importantly, is not easily intimidated. When I first mentioned the trip to New Hampshire, I suggested we go hike Mt. Washington as training for summit attempts on Rainier later this summer. Talking him into going for the whole Presi Traverse instead was easy- like taking candy from a baby.
It seemed that some of my friends may have thought I was acting rashly- planning such a big hike in so little time to think it all the way through. I got questioning looks and not a few, ‘are you sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew?’ comments when I divulged this plan. I understand that these people love and care about me, didn’t want to see me get hurt and were really just trying to intervene in my own interest of safety, but their questions began to raise questions in my own head. I went from confidently thinking, ‘I can do this’ to anxiously pouring over the ‘what ifs.’
I know in climbing and the outdoors that considering the what ifs is what often helps keep us alive to climb another day. But there can also come a point where one reaches “paralysis through over-analysis” where consideration of the what-ifs becomes too great and squelches any and all action before it even happens. This is my problem. I have been raised to be a scaredy-cat. I come from a long line of professional worriers. In climbing I find that most of my frustrations comes from the reasonable risks I’m too afraid to take, rather then the unreasonable risks I thoughtlessly take.
I am actively working on transforming my relationship with these reasonable risks in both climbing and my life in general. From what I have learned so far, the key ingredient appears to be confidence. If I am confident and know that I can lead a 5.8 route, then I can do it. If I am confident and know that I can pull off a 22+ hike over some of the toughest terrain in the East, then I can do it. This is one of the things I love so much about traveling in the mountains; its such an opportunity to learn about one’s self and to gain confidence from your successes as well as important lessons from your failures.
We successfully executed the Traverse this weekend. By the end, we were tired and spent and my feet felt like raw hamburger meat, tenderized by the miles and miles of talus. I knew there would be pain involved. But I also knew there would be success.