There is always something wonderful about getting to the top of anything. A sense of accomplishment, the conqueror who has vanquished the opposition. Even as children we understood the value of being on top whether it was a pile-up or a game of ‘King of The Hill’ the best always made it to the top. The high ground holds strategic advantage.
In the world of climbing, hiking, and mountaineering it is referred to as ‘Summit Fever’ the internal driving force that propels up terrain pushing our bodies to the limit and even shrugging off that tingling feeling some might refer to as their ‘Spidey Sense’ warning them about the potential danger. Unfortunately Summit Fever (great band name by the way) has led many to great injury or even death. It has pushed them beyond a reasonable limit causing them to fail in situations that they should have never been in, and in situations where they needed to call upon the reserves of strength, courage, and stamina but found the tank empty and in their darkest hour lose hope and then life.
I don’t know if I have Summit Fever. I find a summit less about the joy of conquering the mountain and more about what reaching the top provides for me. Is there a sense of accomplishment? Sure there is. But to me nothing trumps the tranquility of a mountain summit. Sure, sure, I know that most of the time the wind howls, it’s cold, and you’re tired facing the toughest part of the hike/climb ahead which is the descent. Your knees are begging for you to find another way, your quads and shins promise to go on strike. However even in the howling wind, even in the face of a looming descent I find there in no place which brings me such joy as the top of a mountain.
When I was younger and far more stupid in my actions I went on a hike to a favorite trail of mine, Herman’s Gulch in Colorado. A nice little jaunt to a small lake which was encompassed by a few small peaks. One day I decided that it was a wise decision to go on this hike solo. When I reached the destination (with plenty of time to spare) I hiked around the lake and began to trudge through a scree field up the peak which looked oh so ripe for an ascent. It was a class 3 scramble all
the way, and being as I was 18 years old and in prime physical condition this shouldn’t have posed a problem. As I began to scramble up a few pebbles started to tumble-down around me. I stopped, grabbed onto the handholds as tight as I could and looked up above me. It wasn’t a rock slide, just two mountain goats kicking stones at me wondering why I was disturbing their mountain. I think they knew why, they’d seen what I was about to see.
Finally I made it to the top and experienced the mighty rushing winds, but those did not even enter into my mind as I had a 360 degree panoramic view of Colorado’s beautiful Front Range. I was all alone up there. No one to hold a conversation with, no one to bother me. I sat down and took it all in. It was peaceful. It was scenic. It was a rush to be able to experience the majestic beauty that could only be provided on the top. To me, at that time, the reward far outweighed the risks associated.
I will admit, some summits far exceed others: some are way too crowded and some simply don’t offer that great an experience. Is it level of effort that separates it a great summit from one that isn’t so great? Is there such a thing as a bad summit? I may not know the answer to that, but I sure know this, I’ll take a mountain summit over any low lands any day of the week.
Until next time…..adventure on!