Mountain top experience

Feeling better after a snack on the top of Mt Whitney

It wasn’t what I anticipated, what I dreamed of, what I expected. No arms thrown up in triumph, fists punching the thin air, broad smile as I perched on a ledge high in the sky. Reaching Mt. Whitney’s summit last August, I tried at first to choke back tears, to smile, to high five. Until I realized it was all fake and I found my shoulders shaking with sobs as I stumbled to find a place to sit, to just be.

My companions were ready for a group photo—evidence that we all made it to the top, we’d all triumphed. I didn’t want a photo. I motioned them away with my arm, unable to talk. I rationalized that I hadn’t eaten much in the six hour summit push, that my head was pounding with the altitude, that I was PMSing, that I was just damn tired.

I had carried so many expectations up the mountain…that my kids would survive the divorce I was in the first phases of, that my ex would be able to let go of his anger so that we could be friends again and or at least get through this without hating each other, that my 40th birthday the week before meant the beginning of a big, exciting new decade of my life, filled with all the adventure and creativity I had been craving.

Those expectations became leaden weight the higher I climbed. As I sat on the top rock of the lower 48 states and looked out, to peaks and valleys in the distance, it dawned on me that this was only the beginning of my journey, not the end. Reaching the summit would not make everything ok, but it gave me a wonderfully high vantage point from which to let weight roll off my shoulders, down my back, past my feet and sailing into deep space beyond.

group shot at last!

Author: TJ

adventurer, writer, photographer

7 thoughts on “Mountain top experience”

  1. tj-

    i have a knack for hanging onto hopes so tightly that they feel like worries. it’s so hard to let them untangle, to find their airy space sometimes. this is a beautiful moment of your own undoing that you’ve shared here.

    a few years back we went to yosemite for my partner’s birthday. things were rough–not for us, but for me as i’d begun the difficult work of unraveling toxic threads recently. driving into the park the first morning, nature swelling around me, i sobbed. i remembered i was small and it felt so, so good.

    thanks for this post. think i’m in need of a good hike.


  2. Rachel,

    Yes, sometimes a good hike/walk/run sets the earth back on its proper spin! I remember when my boy was little (nearly 7 now!) of how tightly I tried to hold to every precious second–trying to freeze time. Hopes are the same way. We hold so tightly sometimes that they are squeezed through our fingers to drip away. The trick is to hold them loosely so they can breathe and have room to grow.


  3. great post, again! i love to read your articles as they are so… true! lovely pictures & lovely stories that make me think about my life, things i have achieved so far and things that are still on my to-to-list… you, don’t give up cause every day is just the beginning of a new thrilling adventure! and continue with those lovely posts! THX


  4. Ameena, Rike and Aidan,

    Thanks for reading and taking a moment to send your kind comments! I am finding such blessings in the camaraderie of a few fellow bloggers…and the writing is healing as well.



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