I like to think of myself as a hiker. I really enjoy nothing more than summitting a peak. It’s often the spectacular panoramic view that you are rewarded with at the top, coupled with the fact that you got yourself there on your own two feet that really gives you a sense of achievement and self-satisfaction.
This is what I do on my weekends to balance my busy work week. I believe it’s important to challenge yourself by trying new things and setting goals for yourself.
I was traveling Bolivia in May last year. I have done my fair share of day hikes to summits but Huayana Potosi in Bolivia was something else! When I realised a group of girls in my hostel that didn’t fit the profile of an fit, avid hiker were going to attempt the summit, I thought, well, we are totally going up too, of course. If they can do it, so can we. Of course there are no guarantees of getting to the top but if you don’t try, you will never know if you are physically and mentally capable of achieving such a demanding task.
This beast of a peak is 2 hours north of La Paz and stands tall at 6088m. I am so thankful that my travel buddy and I chose the three day option, as opposed to the two day, as it gave us a night to acclimatize at the base camp, at 4700m.
Altitude sickness became my worst enemy on our first night. It began with a lingering headache and then escalated into some throwing up. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, altitude could still come and bite you in the ass. Luckily, I woke up feeling great the following day so off we went.
After lugging all our gear 2 hours up the mountain to Campo Alto at 5130m, we had an entire afternoon and evening to acclimatize.
My mind was hopping around all over the place that day. I had never done a hike as serious as this one before. Heck, I had never been past 3550m and this was just under double that! I was going to put up a fight. I very much felt that my faith was out of my hands at this point. If the Universe believed I needed to make the summit then it was going to help me. If not well, it wasn’t meant to be. Because if you feel really sick, down you go.
On the morning of May 10th at 12:30 AM, Dacre, our guide, Eulogio and I were the last to set off up the beast of a mountain. With the three of us roped together and crampons in place and ice axe in hand, we set off on our 5 hour ascent. Our head lamps lit the way during the wee hours of the morning and there was no looking up, for seeing the lights of fellow hikers ahead on the steep incline would be incredibly off-putting.
After carefully crossing a narrow ridge, we joined a small group at the summit at 6.30am. It was emotional times. I shed some tears of pure joy and relief. When you scrape together all the physical and mental strength you have and are rewarded by the feeling of standing on top of the world at sunrise, it is a feeling you will never forget.
Although I was suffering from altitude sickness and had the worst headache imaginable at the summit we had made it, slowly but surely by putting one foot in front of the other for 5 hours. Once we descended to altitudes where my head could recover and brain could process thoughts normally, I was relieved that the experience was over. And I cried like a little baby. They were tears of joy and relief.
It was by far the most challenging experience I have ever had in my entire life. I believe a mix of factors contributed to my success: My optimism, strong will and determination. Little can match the feeling of ecstasy that you are rewarded with when you accomplish a goal. I say go for it. As Nike says, IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING.
After all, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.